Harish Bengre, who owns a trawler, is not a happy man.
Mr. Harish, who had worked on his father’s boat for 30 years, invested all his earnings and took loans to purchase his own boat about two years ago. He said on Friday that he had lost about Rs. 25,000 on his latest fishing expedition.
Till a few months ago, the subsidy on the diesel used by his boat used to boost his finances a bit. The Centre was giving a subsidy of Rs. 1.5 a litre on diesel purchased by the fishermen. Mr. Bengre used to get a refund of over Rs. 10,000 every now and then. “This money used to come in handy for repayment of loans borrowed from friends,” he said.
He sought to know from the staff of the Mangalore Trawl Boat Fishermen’s Primary Cooperative Society whether the scheme would be reintroduced. The Government has changed the scheme, restricting it to fishermen in the below the poverty line category.
According to the society, the five diesel outlets at the harbour used to sell about 6 lakh litres of diesel a month. The society used to raise bills totalling Rs. 9 lakh every month for refund. The Centre used to send crossed cheques in the names of the respective boat owners.
According to the officials in the office of the Deputy Director of Fisheries, the scheme was changed with effect from April 1, 2009. It could now be extended only to fishermen, who are below the poverty line.
The officials said that the Centre had been informed through a letter that there were no takers for the changed scheme.
“Not a single application has been received for subsidy after the change,” the official said.
According to the changed scheme, no one investing Rs. 50 lakh or more on boats and fishing nets can be considered as below poverty line.
However, those owning traditional boats use kerosene for the outboard engines, officials said. Vasudev Boloor, general secretary of the National Fishworkers Forum, said that this issue had been discussed with different Ministries in New Delhi during the dharna staged by fishermen from all over the country during the second week of this month.
“I will raise this issue again in the forthcoming regional-level meeting of fishermen’s leaders on February 21 and 22 with the representatives of the Union Government at Thiruvananthapuram,” Mr. Boloor said.
He said the Centre had increased the subsidy from Rs. 1.5 a litre to Rs. 3 a litre. But it was of no use to boat owners who required diesel for fishing, he said.
Fishermen, however, expressed happiness over the State Government waiving the sales tax component worth of about Rs. 5 a litre on diesel. “Boat owners are surviving because of this,” said an office-bearer of the society.