Daily wage workers, men wearing cylindrical hats, walk partly into the water to intercept catamarans loaded with basketful of shrimps, crabs and nethili (anchovies). Once on the shore, auctions begin between vendors and buyers some of them having travelled long distances to purchase a basket's worth.
A crucial meeting point, the Kasimedu fish market supplies stock of fishes to several fish markets across the city. Some like Rajeswari from Ennore says she has returned home on several occasions without purchasing anything. “When the catch is not substantial, prices are pushed up making it very expensive,” she says. Rajeswari, however, does not use one of the Chennai Corporation constructed fish markets to sell the catch she purchases but instead sells it out in the open.
Vendors from a government facility in Besant Nagar travel to fish markets in Kasimedu and Chintadripet every day to purchase their stock. “I ask other vendors who travel to North Chennai to purchase some dried fish for me since I cannot make the trip myself,” says S.Jeeva, a senior citizen, adding she sells dried fish because of the difficulty in procuring ice to store fresh fish. Other vendors express the need for an ice-crushing machine or cold storage in the facility.
“We buy blocks of ice and physically crush it everyday,” says S.Parimala.
M.Thangam, who uses the facility in Kasimedu, says the biggest issue with the premises is hygiene. “People are assigned to clean the market twice a day but this is not done very well,” she says, adding the fish market was constructed on what used to be a public convenience facility.
The situation at the Zam Bazaar fish market hygiene is much better. “We work here and it will benefit us if the place is hygienic,” says a vendor. A recent study by the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture found that in most of the markets in the city, cleaning of the premises happens only once a day even though international standards require it to be cleaned at least three times. This is because on arrival of the load, the rotten fish are discarded. Secondly, when the load is auctioned, a large amount of carcasses are thrown out and while the market is functioning, dressing of the fish leads to a lot of waste.
In addition, the study found that most markets lack basic requirements such as an elevated platform and a constant supply of running water for cleaning. The reasons for this poor state of affairs is because most of the fish markets are privately owned and very few by the government or fisheries department as in other countries, reveals the study.
Keywords: Chennai fish markets