No hike in kerosene subsidy for fishers: Minister

Minister for Fisheries Saji Cherian has called for Opposition support in conducting a joint protest to address the twin problems of hike in price of kerosene and cut in quota to the State that have hit fishers hard.

Responding to questions from ruling and Opposition members during the Question Hour in the Assembly on Thursday, Mr. Cherian said this was a grave problem that could not be addressed by the State government alone.

The previous Left Democratic Front government had provided a subsidy of ₹25 when the price of kerosene was ₹49 a litre. However, now its price stood at ₹134 a litre. Moreover, not even half the requirement of kerosene by the fishers was being provided. A traditional fishing boat with two 9.9-hp engines required 35 to 60 litres of kerosene a day. However, these boats got only 140 litres from Matsyafed, and 129 litres from the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation at subsidised rate every month. Only if the State got 1 lakh litres a year from the Union government under subsidy-less quota could this shortage be met to an extent.

The State had also held meetings with the oil companies and written to the Union Minister for Fisheries seeking recognition for Matsyafed as a wholesale agent for fuel distribution to no avail.

No subsidy increase’

To the Opposition demand for a reduction in tax from the increased kerosene prices and increase in government subsidy for kerosene, Mr. Cherian said these were not the answer to the problem. If the State were to increase the subsidy in tune with the rising price of kerosene, it would incur a huge financial burden.

The Minister said the government’s goal was to insure all fishing craft. It was in 2018-19 that insurance cover for traditional boats was provided. Only 1.3% of the insured amount was to be paid as premium. Of that, the government paid 90%, while the beneficiary had to pay the rest. In the 2021-22 financial year, 2,758 boats and engines were insured. There were 34,064 traditional boats registered in the State. Of them, nearly 14,000 were less than a decade old. Awareness of insurance cover for the boats had to be created, and a campaign was under way. The State government had also announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh to fishers without insurance who died at sea.

An amount of ₹4 crore had been sanctioned this financial year for provide interest-free loans to active fishers who were registered with Matsyafed for purchase of fishing boat and fishing equipment, the Minister said.

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Printable version | Oct 3, 2022 6:15:58 pm |