When a sacred river offers shelter, livelihood to 4 families

The habitat of 25 migrant fisherfolk comprises four house boats and as many temporary houses on the sands of Sabari

January 01, 2021 11:08 pm | Updated January 02, 2021 11:44 am IST - CHINTOOR (EAST GODAVARI)

Volisetti Kamaraju and his wife Durga at their houseboat on the Sabari, near Chintoor in East Godavari Agency.

Volisetti Kamaraju and his wife Durga at their houseboat on the Sabari, near Chintoor in East Godavari Agency.

For nearly two decades, the sacred river Sabari and a group of four migrant fisherfolk families have remained steadfast companions near Chintoor village along the tri-State border of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chattisgarh in East Godavari Agency.

The strong survival skills of the fisherfolk motivated them to make the river their permanent home by developing a tiny settlement by it.

Migrating from Dowleswaram village in the Godavari delta in early 2000, the four families decided to make a living by taking up fishing in the Sabari, and are operating four houseboats in which they live as well as fish on the tri-State border.

Their habitat now comprises four house boats, four temporary houses on the sands of the river, where four families with 25 people have settled, eking out a livelihood by fishing in the river.

“We have ten children with us. All of them attend school in Chintoor village,” says Volisetti Durga, one of the eight women who live in the settlement and join their families for fishing.

Survival

The eldest in the settlement, Gudem Venkateswarlu, narrates how life is by the river. “Except the children, everyone including women go for fishing in the Sabari, covering the stretch of 13-km river until Konta in Chhattisgarh, Motu in Odisha and Chintoor. We never fish in the Sileru that joins the Sabari at Konta,” he says, adding that many a times, they go for fishing during the night.

A majority of the day’s catch is sold at their settlement that is thronged by locals, while the rest is sold in Chintoor village.

Another family elder, Volisetti Kamaraju, 40, says: “We never felt the need to return to our native place. Life by the Sabari is comfortable thanks to the low cost of living. Here, we have everything we want — water, fish, family and a market.”

Post the floods in the Godavari and Sabari, many fisherfolk began thronging this area for fishing but later returned to their native places.

“Recently, local authorities have sanctioned a ration card to my family. Our children have enrolled at the government school in Chintoor. Here, we have never faced any problems as the Koya tribe is always there to help us at any time,” says Durga, Mr. Kamaraju’s wife.

On October 23 last year, Nutti Harikrishna and Nutti Vijaya got married on this settlement. The bride, Ms. Vijaya, belongs to Dowleswaram.

“I wanted my marriage to be performed along the Sabari. We even invited our relatives and guests from outside for the wedding,” Mr. Harikrishna says.

“I am happy to live in the houseboats and spending the days with my husband going fishing,” Ms. Vijaya says.

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