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RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Self-help group members from tsunami-affected hamlets in Royapuram bottle processed seafood products on Sunday.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Self-help group members from tsunami-affected hamlets in Royapuram bottle processed seafood products on Sunday.

Sandhya Soman

Women SHGs in north Chennai get into seafood process

CHENNAI: Net weight: 200 gms.

Ingredients: Fresh catch, finely ground spices and clean hands from Royapuram fishing hamlets to put together the best food processing practices that go into making tangy pickles and cutlets.

Price: Rs.50 and smiles on the faces of the women pickle-makers that have nearly erased memories of the tsunami that struck them and their families two years ago.

Selvi, 42, could not bring herself to sell fish after the waves almost washed her husband away from Pudhumanaikuppam.

Now, she doesn't pause before removing her bangles and gold chain to put on gloves and masks to make pickles, cutlets and paste (`thokku') out of prawn and other fish varieties.

As president of the Puthulaga Women's Federation, a union of 57 women self-help groups from Royapuram, Ms. Selvi takes it upon herself to procure fish before starting work at the centre on M.S. Koil Street by 9.30 a.m. She makes it a point to go shopping on Tuesdays, Fridays and `amavasai' (new moon) days, when many abstain from eating non-vegetarian food, to stock up fish.

Work, except on Sundays, is hectic. The unit started production three months ago after receiving training from the Fisheries College and Research Institute in Tuticorin and with the assistance of volunteers from C-DOT, a service organisation.

"There are 28 of us. We take turns to clean the fish, ginger and the other ingredients and later, bottle it. Once we put on the masks, we don't talk," explains Jnanambal, a member.

According to project co-ordinator Rosy, it was not easy to bring the women together. After much persuasion, the members put together Rs.500 each from all the groups, says Ms. Rosy. "They generated nearly Rs.50,000. C-DOT gave a revolving fund of Rs.15,000." Action Aid India and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation came forward to set up the Rs.10 lakh facility.

The next step, before shifting the operations from a rented premises to a government-facility, has already started. Door-to-door marketing by another set of SHG members has been on for the last 15 days, says C-DOT director S.D. Rajendran.

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