On Thursday evening, when Chandrika Sharma’s colleagues said goodbye to her and wished her safe travel to Mongolia, little did they realise that luck would not keep her company.
Chandrika Sharma was on Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 from Malaysia to Beijing that reportedly crashed into the sea off the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc early Saturday. Nothing is as yet known about the fate of the 239 persons on board.
While her family, husband and daughter, were inconsolable and not available for comment, her colleagues recalled her passion for helping the fishing community and her fantastic work ethic. Ms. Sharma was the executive secretary of the International Collective in Support of Fish Workers, based in Chennai.
An expert in fisheries sector and issues related to fishermen, Ms. Sharma, a resident of Velachery, was heading to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to attend a regional conference for Asia and the Pacific hosted by Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Her colleagues, who are busy helping out the family trace Ms. Sharma, say she was a very a warm person to work with. “She used to co-ordinate with ICSF offices across the world and help small scale fishermen. I met her last on Thursday evening when she came to my office room to say goodbye. She was to return to Chennai on March 15,” said N. Venugopal, her colleague.
With a Masters degree from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and M.Phil from Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, she worked in Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi and Aruna Roy’s Social Work and Research Centre before joining ICSF as programme associate in 1995. She became the executive secretary of ICSF in 2002.
Ms. Sharma had travelled from Chennai on Friday to Kuala Lumpur and boarded the Malaysian Airlines flight to Beijing to attend a consultation meeting on Saturday. Her husband is a consultant based in Chennai and their only daughter is pursuing studies English literature in Ambedkar University, Delhi are in a shock after the news broke out about the flight crash.
M.J. Vijayan of National Fish Workers Forum, who has worked closely with Ms. Chandrika, expressed shock over the reports of her flight crashing. “She was a very modest, silent person, less visible… but when she is in a conference you realise that she makes a substantive contribution to the cause. She would make very specific interventions,” he said. “For the past one year, she has been flying frequently due to all the negotiations going on with the FAO and ILO… in fact we used to joke about her globetrotting,” he added.
Jesurethinam, Convenor, Coastal Action Network, said she knew Ms. Sharma for over 10 years now and that before she became executive secretary, she was a member. “She was very sensitive to issues and played a major role in influencing policies at the FAO,” she said.
Fifty-one year-old Ms. Sharma was to celebrate her birthday later this month.
Keywords: Malaysia Airlines, Malaysian plane crash, missing flight, Beijing-bound flight, Subang Air Traffic Control, Chandrika Sharma, Phu Quoc island, International Collective in Support of Fish Workers, fisheries sector conclave