The Centre is firm on going ahead with its proposal to regulate fishing activities in the country’s exclusive economic zone coming under its jurisdiction.

This was stated by the Union Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Mr. Thomas asserted that the Centre did not have any plans to infringe on the rights of State governments up to 12 nautical miles in the sea.

The Centre had the powers to regulate fishing in its territorial waters that extended beyond the 12 nautical miles up to 200 nautical miles. The Kerala government’s apprehension that the Centre’s new moves, indicated in the draft for regulation of fishing in the exclusive economic, would infringe on its rights was unfounded, he said.

The State government had recently expressed its apprehension in a memorandum submitted to the Centre. Mr. Thomas said the draft regulation had been circulated to the State governments to seek their views on this. The move to issue the draft regulation was taken after a meeting of State Fisheries Ministers, he said.

Mr. Thomas said the draft regulation had been issued in the context of the need to curb several other activities in the EEZ such as drilling and dredging. Besides, the regulation was not applicable to a majority of fishing vessels as they operated only in the territorial waters under the State government’s jurisdiction. Most of the vessels operating in waters under the Centre’s jurisdiction could go up to only 60 nautical miles, he said.

Regarding the State government’s opposition to the Indo- Asean free trade agreement, Mr. Thomas said that only Kerala had taken a negative approach to the pact. He said the apprehension that the FTA would lead to huge imports of agriculture produce was baseless. The Centre did not want a confrontation with the State governments, but has sought their support for several projects to be implemented in the coastal areas of the country, he said.

As a prelude to the Food Security Act, the Union Agriculture Ministry had decided to revamp the functioning of the Food Corporation of India and Central Warehousing Corporation. In reply to a question, he said the below-the-poverty-line (BPL) list prepared by the State governments was an exaggerated one. According to the Centre’s list, prepared as per the Planning Commission norms in 2003, the total number of families coming under the BPL category was 6.5 crore. According to the State lists, more than 10 crore came under the BPL category.

The minister said the general perception was that the BPL number should have come down by 2009 owing to the growth in the economy, but the Central government has decided to go by the 2003 survey, he said.

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