Government after increasing subsidised fuel to 400 litres, withheld it completely in September
The traditional fishing sector, which was elated at certain allotments made for them in the July budget, is now left in the lurch as the quantum of kerosene subsidy for them remains uncertain.
In his budget speech on July 12, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced an increase in kerosene allocation for traditional boats from 150 litres to 400 litres per month (at Rs. 14.50 per litre). The jubilation among traditional fishermen was short lived, with the government withdrawing even their earlier quota of 150 litres in September.
“Increasing it to 400 litres per month was a 15-year-old demand. We need the government help to survive against mechanised trawlers,” said Karnataka Purse-seine Meenugarara Sangha member Mohan Bengre.
His views were echoed by president of the Karavali Traditional Fishermen’s Association B.K. Vasudev, who said a fisherman uses up to 20 litres of kerosene every day. “150 litres per month translates to just 5 litres daily. With more boats and trawlers in operation, we need to go deeper and deeper every season,” he said.
Compared to the subsidised rate of Rs. 16.20, kerosene in the open market would cost around Rs. 72.
Traditional fishermen were drowning in losses because of poor yield and withholding of September quota, he said. “We used to see around Rs. 25,000 worth of fish being sold in markets. Now, because of the continuous rains, only around Rs. 4,000 worth is being sold,” said Mr. Vasudev.
The stoppage of kerosene subsidy stemmed from procurement of kerosene by the Food and Civil Supplies Department. “At the rapid rate of ration card enrolments, we can’t allot much of the PDS kerosene to the fisheries sector,” said an official.
In September, the government prohibited the diversion of PDS-quota kerosene to fishermen. After this, the subsidy was stopped. The Fisheries Department intervened and a 150-litre quota was temporarily introduced.
Taken for a ride
Though officials say that the Cabinet has approved 300 litres a month for traditional boats from November, the final quantity is expected to be lesser than the allotment. While the department has issued 1,300 permits for traditional boats, the Civil Supplies Department in Bangalore– which allots kerosene to districts – has 914 permits registered.
“Because of the increase in demand for kerosene, the headquarters stopped recognising these permits after 2004. We continue to register here because of political pressure and fear of backlash from fishermen,” said the official.
And so, even if 300 litres per boat is given, the kerosene is divided among the additional 386 boats too. “Each boat may get around 250 litres of subsidised kerosene,” said the official.