Matsyafed officials pressured to restore subsidy for all permit holders

Black marketeers who found themselves in a tough spot following the State government’s decision to stop the distribution of kerosene at subsidised rates for all outboard engine boats over 12 years old have started pressured Matsyafed officials in the district in a display of their opposition to the move.

Some of their representatives recently approached Matsyafed officials in the guise of ‘poor fishermen’ to coerce them to reinstate the old method of distribution and make kerosene available to all permit holders, irrespective of the age of the boats. Some of them threatened to launch protests claiming that the new system put several poor fishermen to hardship.

As per a latest report of Matsyafed, which was assigned the task of shortlisting the beneficiaries, only 1,402 permit holders were found eligible for the kerosene at subsidised rates in the district. Before the new order, the total permits were 2,092.

What made the black-marketeering lobby go on the offensive was the cancellation of 690 permits which, official sources said, were utilised by suspected black-marketeering agents who did not have even a mechanically fit boat for fishing.

Matsyafed officials said some such agents secured kerosene at subsidised rates for even inactive engines and resold the kerosene at exorbitant rates to fishermen struggling to operate boats with the scarce supply from the Civil Supplies Department.

At present, a permit holder gets only 129 litres of kerosene a month at subsidised rates, but this is insufficient to operate a boat for more than three days. The actual requirement is around 800 litres for a boat with 1 HP outboard engine. The fishermen usually approach the black marketeers and purchase additional kerosene at the rate of Rs.60 to Rs.70 a litre. This when the government offers kerosene at a subsidised rate of just Rs.13 a litre.

“So far, the black marketeers were utilising the permits of old boats that they purchased from poor fishermen discreetly. Every year, they get the permits revised by influencing or threatening the officials concerned during the annual checking process,” an official attached to Matsyafed said.

Many a time, the drives are merely a mock exercise, as the inspecting team is forced to follow the wishes of the black marketeers’ lobby, the official said.

The most damaging part of their strategy, the sources said, was the smear campaign they spearhead among the people claiming that the government was withholding the deserving share of kerosene to poor fishermen. “This creates a false impression and helps the lobby win the people’s sympathy in the name of poor fishermen,” they said.

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