Fishermen affiliated to the Kerala Swathantra Matsyathozhilali Federation staged a strike at the Chellanam mini harbour on Wednesday protesting against the denial of fair price for their daily catch and the spiralling prices of petrol, diesel, and kerosene.
They also took out a march demanding immediate steps to check the sharp drop in their earnings, triggered by the involvement of middlemen and commission agents who sold fish at a higher rate. The fishermen pointed out that they were getting ₹10 to ₹30 for a kilogram of fish through auction led by middlemen. The same fish was sold in the range of ₹100 and ₹200 at a nearby place within a kilometre. “We are being exploited by middlemen who receive a higher commission,” they said.
Shiji Thayyil, president of the federation, said commission agents enjoyed the rights over fish catch as several fishermen had taken loan from them to buy fishing equipment. While Matsyafed provides a maximum loan of ₹2 lakh to purchase equipment, agents give ₹5 lakh and above. Though Matsyafed conducts auction, only a few participate in it, he said.
The fishermen also said that the rise in prices of kerosene, petrol, and diesel had affected their work considerably. They were forced to buy kerosene at higher rates from the open market as the kerosene given through Supplyco at subsidised rate was not adequate.
Chellanam panchayat president K.D. Prasad said the government was making all efforts to help fishermen get reasonable price for their daily catch. “However, the authorities cannot fix a minimum price for it as in the case of essential items. The Centre is responsible for the cut in subsidy for kerosene,” he claimed.