Seeking compensation, 15 fishing villages in Pulicat continue silent protest on fifth day

Jobs for the local youth is at the heart of the ongoing protest by residents of 15 fishing villages of Light House Kuppam panchayat in Pulicat. They say they are not opposed to projects in their area but want employment for the younger generation as a measure of compensation.

Almost resigned to the fact that the need for more infrastructure would mean incursions into their territories, the fishermen are looking to the State government to address their needs.

Speaking to The Hindu at the protest site outside the gates of a private ship building yard-cum-port project at Kattupalli, K. Ramachandran who heads the protest committee said that his people are determined to continue their protest. It was the fourth day of their silent protest on Tuesday.

P.K. Manoharan, secretary of the protest committee, said the fisherfolk had received a letter from the Tiruvallur district administration which promised 1,750 jobs in two ports, one desalination plant and two thermal power plants.

“For over five years now we have been holding talks and protests but nothing has happened. This time we intend to stay and assert our rights. We want the district collector or police or other departments concerned to help us get jobs,” he said.

M. Thameem Shah, another protestor, said that due to dredging, their coastline was being washed away on a daily basis. “We are sea-faring fishermen and have no other go but to depend on the sea. The flow in the Buckingham Canal has been blocked by two bridges and one conveyor belt facility. This has led to drastic reduction in the catch of prawns and sear fish, which our area is known for. We want compensation for the loss and that can come in the form of jobs,” he said.

Ossie Fernandes, co-convenor of the NGO Coastal Action Network, said the fishermen were right in staging a protest.

“The fisherfolk have now realised that it is a do-or-die situation. Various projects have disturbed the area's sensitive ecological balance. The linkage between the sea and Buckingham Canal must not be disturbed and therefore, industries must not be allowed in the vicinity. It would be detrimental to not just the fishermen's livelihoods but also lead to closing of the Ennore Creek,” he said.

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