Ship-building company agrees to listen to their grievances

Fishermen's groups decided not to stage a protest against Bharati Shipyard Limited, after an assurance from the company to solve their problems, president of the Mangalore Trawl Boat Fishermen's Association Seetharam Suvarna said here on Saturday.

Speaking to presspersons after a meeting of fishermen's groups, Mr. Suvarna said that it had been decided to call off the protest after an assurance from the company that it would pay attention to fishermen's grievances.

Bharati Shipyard is a ship-building yard located on the banks of the Gurupur river in Kudroli Bengre. The river is somewhat divided into two waterways by two sand bars in the middle of it which are used to dry fish. The portion of the river on the Bunder side is used by fishermen for their boats.

Fisherman Chetan Bengre told The Hindu that fishermen were facing trouble allegedly on account of Bharati Shipyard. He said that fishermen wanted the company to dredge the sand accumulated near the mouth of the river and restore the depth of the river. Trawl boats and purse-seine boats ran the risk of getting grounded because of the shallowness.

Mr. Bengre also claimed that the company was using the fishermen's channel to let the ships constructed by it go out to sea, causing problems to the fishermen. “We want them to use a separate channel (the Bengre side of the river, as opposed to the Bunder side of the river).”

Deputy Commissioner N.S. Channappa Gowda told The Hindu that the company had agreed to construct a separate channel and had sought time for the purpose. He said that a survey would be taken of the design and the cost of the project. He said the company would bear the cost of up to Rs. 10 crore, and the state government would bear additional expenditure if necessary. The company was undertaking dredging work in the meanwhile.

A ship constructed by the company ran aground in the Gurupur river as it was being towed to sea by the company on Saturday evening. The fishermen's groups were to protest the departure of that ship, if their demands had not been fulfilled, Mr. Suvarna said. There had been allegations that the ship did not have permission to leave the shipyard, but Mr. Gowda said that he had given permission to the company.

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