Demand substantial increase in allocation, cheaper loans
Representatives of 3 crore fisherfolk from all over India met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi recently and sought, among others, creation of a separate ministry for fisheries. Now, the department is part of the Ministry of Agriculture.
City-based Secretary of the National Fish Workers Forum (NFF) Vasudev Boloor, who was part of the delegation, said fisheries was not getting the required attention.
There are about two crore fish workers on the 8,118 km coast spread over 13 States and 1 crore engaged inland fishing in all States, he said. The forum pointed out that the nation earned foreign exchange of Rs. 18,856 crore through export of fisheries products, which stood at 9.28 lakh tonnes. The sector accounts for 0.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
But only an amount of Rs. 317.30 crore was earmarked for fisheries in 2013-14, of which a mere Rs. 8.5 crore was meant for development of fisheries with the rest of it being used for research and training. The NFF demanded substantial increase in the allocation in the next financial year.
The NFF demanded that all facilities extended to farmers should be given to the fishing community also. The fishermen had been alleging that fishermen were denied cheaper loans extended to famers.
They demanded that contributory compensation, given during the ‘close season’, be increased to Rs. 1,500 per month against the present Rs. 600 as recommended by the National Commission for Farmers, headed by M.S. Swaminathan.
The National Fish Workers Forum demanded withdrawal of excise duty on diesel used for mechanised boats and taxes on kerosene. The forum, which met heads of political parties in New Delhi demanding that pro-fisher schemes should be included in their manifestoes, wanted that fishing community should be considered as scheduled tribe as suggested by Mandal Commission.(The commission included them in Other Backward Classes but pointed out that certain sections still suffer from the stigma of untouchability in some part of the country and their inclusion in the lists of Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes may be considered by the government).
The other demands included implementing the Murari Committee, which recommended ban on foreign fishing trawlers in Indian waters, and upgrading the skills of Indian fishermen to undertake deep-sea fishing.