Tamil Nadu 2016

A marlin that dodges fishing nets in Kanyakumari district

Silvery beaches and fishermen’s shacks fringe Kanyakumari district, a famed tourist destination and confluence of seas. Of the 13 coastal districts in Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari has the most number of fisher-folk, accounting for 2.5 lakh of the over 14 lakh voters in the district. But, caught in the quicksands of politics, the community members have not represented any of the six Assembly constituencies in the district over the years.

Kanyakumari distinguished itself by electing a woman from the fishing community in 1957. Lourdhammal Simon went on to become a member of the Kamaraj Cabinet. But the last time it elected a community member to the Assembly was in 1996, when R. Bernard, a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) candidate, won the Colachel seat.

“None of the political parties gives any thought to the request of the community in the district. The State government never took any initiative in this connection, though it has accepted the recommendations of the Justice Venugopal commission for creating a separate constituency for fisher-folk and issued orders,” says G. Selestine, president of the Tamil Nadu Meenavar Thozhirsanka Kootamaippu, an organisation of fisher-folk affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

Besides the mostly Catholic coastal community, over 30,000 inland fisher-folk live in the district. Traditionally, most were supporters of the former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, who founded the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Now they are in all political parties and even supported the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha elections.

“Even when the district was part of Travancore, the fishermen had Vilavancode and Kollancode constituencies exclusively allotted to them. After becoming part of Tamil Nadu, we have been totally neglected. We are victims of caste politics as we are Christians and are not interested in mobilising our people on the plank of caste,” said Fr. A. Churchill, general secretary of the South Asian Fishermen Federation.

Even this time, the DMK and the AIADMK have not given the ticket to representatives from the community. Only the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which has a base in the district, has fielded fishermen. “We would like to wait till the Congress announces its candidates. They can consider Killiyur, where we have 57,622 votes. Otherwise, we will either support candidates of small parties or field our own candidates,” Fr. Churchill said.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 2:20:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tamilnadu2016/a-marlin-that-dodges-fishing-nets-in-kanyakumari-district/article8477141.ece

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