K.P.M. Basheer

KOCHI: The first report of the Kerala State Fisheries Debt Relief Commission, which recommended to the government waiver of some 56,000 fishermen’s loans, will be placed before the Cabinet within a fortnight, Fisheries Minister S. Sarma has said.

Once the report got the Cabinet’s nod, the recommendations would be implemented within the minimum possible time, Mr. Sarma told The Hindu. He hoped the implementation could start by the end of January. The commission asked the government to pay out the dues, totalling Rs.121 crore, owed by over 56,000 fishermen to HUDCO and the Matsyafed (refinanced by National Cooperative Development Corporation).

The report was submitted to the Chief Minister by commission chairman K.K. Dinesan on Wednesday.

Mr. Sarma said the government had two options to pay off NCDC. One was to negotiate a one-time settlement and for this, preliminary discussions had been held with NCDC officials. The second was to repay the debt by the government on behalf of the Matsayfed in annual instalments by making provisions in the State budget each year.

The waiver, he said, would, apart from taking the fishermen off the debt hook, help to revive the fishermen’s cooperative societies. Because of the fishermen’s default on the repayment of loans advanced to them by the cooperatives societies, more than 300 of the 650 societies were now non-functional. Steps would be taken to revive them.