The disruption in the supply of subsidised kerosene has added to the misery of the fishing community, that is already facing an acute shortage of catch.
Jackson Pollayil of Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, an independent federation of fish workers, said the kersone supply situation was “pathetic”. He said though around 14,000 fishing boats had been verified to be deserving of subsidised kerosene, the supply had not been smooth so far. A few boats in Ernakulam district were learnt to have received the first supply after the February verification, he added.
Mr. Pollayil said the supply of subsidised kerosene had come down from about 600 litres per month per boat in the 1980s to around a hundred litres per month at present. The scarcity of kerosene, the rise in the price of the fuel in the open market, and a fish drought-like situation had plunged the sector into a deep crisis, he said, as he pointed out that a large quantity of fish needed for the Kerala market was currently being imported from Karnataka, Goa and Gujarat.
Matsya Thozhilalai Aikya Vedhi convenor Charles George said the price of kerosene under the Public Distribution System had gone up to ₹84 a litre, which was unaffordable. The State government has failed in its promise to supply kerosene at lower rates. The budget presented by former Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac had promised to supply the fuel at ₹25 per litre to the fishermen and ₹60 crore was set aside for the subsidy. But, the money had not been utilised for the purpose, said Mr. George.
There are an estimated 32,000 fishing vessels operating off the coast of Kerala. Of them, more than 14,000 vessels had been verified to be deserving of subsidised kerosene. However, the quantum of subsidised fuel was insufficient for sustaining even two days of operations in a month, said Mr. George.
A small vessel required around 2,000 litres of kerosene per month considering 20 days of operations. But the subsidised quantity of kerosene available to each boat was only 129 litres, he added.