They say they are assaulted, robbed in Kerala

The local fish lorry drivers on Sunday expressed concern over the continued attacks on them over the discharge of water from their vehicles in Kerala.

The drivers raised their concerns at a meeting of Bunder Fish Transporting Lorry Drivers' Union affiliated to the Centre for Indian Trade Union here at Bunder on Sunday.

“For no fault of us, we have become the target of attacks. We have been victims of transgressions by vehicles coming from Kerala to fishmeal units here. Neither the fish transporters nor the fish sellers are concerned over the harassment we face,” said C.K. Ismail, who has been driving fish-laden vehicle for over two decades now.

The drivers said they continued to be targets of the people of the villages and vigilante groups in Kerala. “Despite taking adequate precaution to prevent foul smell, we are attacked. At times, we are robbed,” said Mustafa referring to an incident near Kunjathur 15 days ago.

“A group just stopped my vehicle, snatched the vehicle key and smashed the vehicle. They also assaulted me,” he said.

The drivers alleged that the harassment was more targeted on vehicles coming from Karnataka. The drivers said most of the vehicles from the State were engaged in transporting fish in containers with adequate quantity of ice to Kozhikode and other parts of Kerala.

The water coming out of the containers was collected in two containers. “We have to let out this odourless after every 70 km of travel. But we are assaulted when we do it. We find it strange that vehicles bringing fish to fishmeal units in Ullal are allowed without any hassle. The authorities are blind to the violations by vehicles registered in Kerala,” alleged another driver Naushad.

Sunil Kumar Bajal, CITU district unit secretary, said such attacks had continued even as the issue had been taken up with the Kannur district officials. “We have seen the attacks coming down in Kannur, but they were happening in other districts of Kerala. We have to take it up with the Kerala Government,” Mr. Bajal said.

He said there was a need for designated places for discharge of water after every 50 km. “If there is a policy, we can adopt the same in Mangalore too where the drivers face the same problem,” he said.

CITU district unit president Balakrishna Shetty said the fish lorry drivers received paltry salary ranging between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 6,000 a month.

He said the drivers did not have social security. There were no designated places for drivers and their helpers to take bath and rest. The drivers spoke about bribe taken by Transport Department personnel for issuing temporary permits. They alleged that the Sales Tax officials were imposing tax on the ice used to transport fish in containers, though law did not permit it.