Fishermen to stake rights under the government plan

At their recent gram sabha meeting, fisherfolk belonging to Kottaikuppam panchayat near the Pulicat lake decided to write to the Tiruvallur Collector staking their rights to be included in the government's proposed tourist boating services. This follows feelers from the government saying that 10 fishermen each from Kottaikuppam, Lighthouse Kuppam and Pazhaverkadu panchayats may be involved in a proposed project to operate official boating services.

The proposal comes little over a month after the lake accident which claimed 22 persons. In the accident, most of them belonging to one family were not wearing life jackets.

Ever since, the Tourism Department has been mulling a project to construct a park, boat jetty and an information centre, train fishermen, provide life jackets and post its staff for supervision. “It would not be a profit-making venture but we want to help the fishermen and ensure safety of tourists. We are working out the modalities, the fee, how much the fishermen will get from the trips and so on,” an official said.

N. Pugazhendhi, the ‘Oor Chettiyar' of Kottaikuppam, said: “We have been ferrying people for over 40 years now. We have experience with country craft and have taken people much before the advent of motorised crafts. We have sent the resolution to the Collector.”

Welcoming the proposal, K.B. Kannaiyyan, president, Pazhavarkadu Panchayat, said: “Accidents must be averted… that is the most important thing. All villages must benefit from it.”

There are also fisherfolk of Lighthouse Kuppam who had decided to oppose the project if the other two panchayats were involved. “After the tsunami our livelihood has seen a downturn. We need government jobs,” said R.Karunakaran, panchayat president. He also said that if fisherfolk from other panchayats are given “jobs” they would not help in case of an accident.

For the last few years, the department has been trying to develop Pulicat under the Destination Development Scheme. The project was getting delayed for several reasons. One being that the soil of the identified plot of land was not suitable for the development of the project, the district administration has proposed an alternative site, an official said.

(With inputs from N. Anand)

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012