The State and Union governments have put in place a savings-cum-relief scheme under which fishermen save Rs. 600 over a period of eight earning months but the awareness about the scheme appears to be poor.

As marine fishermen have entered another off-season, they have to survive with whatever little they have saved or live on borrowed money.

With the long-pending demand of the fisher folk for increased compensation under a savings-cum-relief scheme remaining on paper, there is no sight of an end to their annual agony that begins on June 15 when a 57-day holiday begins for fishing.

Lack of awareness

The State and Union governments have put in place a savings-cum-relief scheme under which fishermen save Rs. 600 over a period of eight earning months but the awareness about the scheme appears to be poor. The State and Union Governments give grants of Rs. 600 each besides letting the fisher folk withdraw the amount contributed by them.

Half the fishermen live on borrowed money, according to Sudhir Bangera, a commission agent who helps fishermen sell their catch. Many others go for net repair or to catch fish in the river. Some groups save one sixth of their earnings for this season, he said. Fisherman Shivappa Karkera, a member of Mogaveera Cooperative Society near Sulthan Batheri, said Rs. 1,800 that he got last year under the co-contributory scheme lasted a couple of weeks. He said it should be raised to ensure that each family got Rs. 3,000 a month to ensure a decent living.

The draft national policy for farmers suggested in the fourth report of the National Commission for Farmers, has recommended that “the subsistence allowance per fisher family should be at least Rs.1,500 a month during the ‘close season’. Incidentally, it has suggested, a Contributory Provident Fund and Pension Scheme for fisher folk above 60 years of age.

The Commission, headed by M.S. Swaminathan, was constituted to primarily to work out a comprehensive medium-term strategy for food and nutrition security in the country to move towards the goal of universal food security over time. It was asked to propose methods of enhancing the productivity, profitability, stability and sustainability of the major farming systems of which fisheries is a part.

General Secretary of Coastal Karnataka Fishermen Action Committee president Vasudev Boloor told The Hindu that his association and representatives from National Fishworkers Forum had met Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar a couple of times for enhanced subsistence allowance but to no avail. He said fishermen had planned to launch an agitation in New Delhi soon to press for various demands including this.

Meanwhile, fishermen such as Nagesh Uchil and Pradeep Uchil told The Hindu that they were not aware of the savings-cum-relief scheme administered through fishermen’s cooperative society in Someshwar. On getting details of the scheme, they said they would approach their cooperative society in this regard. At best, only about 10,000 fishermen avail the benefits of the scheme in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, Mr. Boloor said.

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