Special Correspondent

KOCHI: V.R. Krishna Iyer, jurist and human rights campaigner, has urged the Union government to back off from the move to let ASEAN countries export fish duty-free to India, as it will hurt the livelihoods of the fishing community which is among the poorest in the country.

Speaking after opening a “No fish import” convention organised by the Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee to protest against the August 13 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN, Mr. Iyer said fish imports would force fish workers to suicide. He wanted all segments of the fishing sector to support the agitation against the FTA.

Referring to the Union Ministers’ stand that the FTA would do a lot of good to the country in the long run, Mr. Iyer quipped that the fish workers would not live that long.

The convention, at which leaders of a host of fishing sector trade unions and associations spoke, decided to march to the Parliament House on November 11 to protest against the FTA. The coordination committee would send a delegation to Delhi to apprise the Union Ministers of the FTA’s crippling impact on the fishing sector of Kerala. It was pointed out that though there were nine coastal States in the country, no other State was considering the FTA issue seriously as the trade unions there were not well aware of the impact. The committee decided to hold dharnas in front of the Collectorates of the coastal districts.

M.M. Lawrence, Centre of Indian Trade Unions leader, and V. Dinakaran, former MLA, spoke.