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Jetty expansion makes Bestha community edgy

Special Correspondent
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The nomads , who pitched tent on Gurupura banks, make a living by fishing

Seven families of the nomadic Bestha community, originally from Chikmagalur, are temporarily settled at the tip of the Bunder fishing harbour in Mangalore.— Photo: R. Eswarraj
Seven families of the nomadic Bestha community, originally from Chikmagalur, are temporarily settled at the tip of the Bunder fishing harbour in Mangalore.— Photo: R. Eswarraj

For the seven families belonging to the nomadic Bestha community, the Rs. 100-crore project to expand the fishing jetty at Bunder is less than exciting news. Its progress could mean their displacement from the banks of the Gurupura where they have pitched tarpaulin tents. The Bestha members use coracles to go out fishing to eke out a living

The jetty work is suspended following an order from the National Green Tribunal on finding that the project is filling up a creek in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. But that is hardly a relief for the Bestha community members.

“When will the work start again,” asks Madhu Rajappa, who migrated to the city from Nidagatta in Kadur taluk. His family of five with three children is settled on the banks of the Gurupura in the vicinity of bar mouth and close to a tile factory. When informed that the work could take about a couple of years for completion, he responds with a dry smile indicating that he has to vacate the place with his family much before that. Family members Anand Ramaiah, too, share similar fear. The families, which used to engage in fishing near Sulthan Battery have moved over to this place in the last few years. They may have to find a new place again.

That could mean some of the children, who go to a nearby Hoige Bazar Government school, would discontinue education, at least for some time.

Most families have ensured that all eligible children are in schools. After school hours, some girls, aged about eight could be seen drinking fetching water from a distance of about half km.

Each fishing ride in the shallow waters of the river during the high tide could fetch them Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 but they point out that on occasions they do not get even Rs. 50. “What we earn is not sufficient for feeding the family,” says Mr. Madhu’s wife Parvathi.

Most families visit their native villages only twice or thrice in a year to attend religious rituals but have made Mangalore their home for the past few years.

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