Kerala

After sea sortie, Rahul Gandhi all praise for fisherfolk

Rahul Gandhi disembarks from a boat at Kollam Vadi Harbor after going into the sea with fishermen on February 24, 2021.   | Photo Credit: C. Sureshkumar

An early morning sortie fighting all elements and returning to the shore with hardly any catch — Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was all praise for the fishers and their hardwork after his maiden fishing trip on Wednesday morning. He had ventured into the sea in a fishing boat to get a first-hand experience of their life.

Addressing the fishers at Thangassery, Mr. Gandhi expressed his admiration for the fisherfolk and their resilience. "Over the years I have constantly been told how difficult it's to be a fisher in India. From the moment the boat left the shore to the moment we came back every single force was trying to fight my brothers. They take the entire risk, they put their entire labour, they fight the sea and somebody else gets the profit," he said. Mr. Gandhi added that the fishers who accompanied him didn't want their children to take up fishing because "it's too hard and risky".

Pointing out that they had to come back with a single squid after the short trip, Mr.Gandhi said that whole investment put into that trip had zero return. "In my mind I was expecting the net to be full of fish and then it came back empty. The fishers told me that they won't get the same price if they came one hour late and they also have no insurance," he said.

At the sea, the fishers had cooked some fish for the leader and he said, "for the first time I realised the difficulty in getting the fish on our plate."  Adding that he wants to work with fishers to make their life easier, he said, " I might not be able to resolve all your problems, but I will stand with you."

Having a ministry dedicated to fishers tops his priority list for the community so that they can be defended and protected across the country, said Mr. Gandhi. “Just like the farmers farm the land, you farm the sea. The farmers have a ministry in Delhi, but you don't have one. No one speaks for you in Delhi.”

Responding to grievances related to paying 5% of the auction amount to the government, lack of breakwaters in some areas and issues related to paying road cess, Mr.Gandhi said the Kerala UDF leaders will study the problems and his role is to ensure that the fishers are not treated in an unfair manner.

"We are currently in the process of making the manifest of the UDF in consultation with different groups and communities about what they want. Yesterday I said that we need to have a fisher's manifesto for the fishing community. I would like the fishers of Kerala and the UDF to have a conversation and decide what exactly they want in the manifesto."

Requesting the fishers to have a discussion with UDF leaders he added, "If you want the 5% government commission withdrawn, put in our manifesto and it will be done. Whatever is in that manifesto will be delivered to you and that's a promise. I want the manifesto to be your expression, I want the voice of fishers to be there," he said adding that the UDF manifesto is also developing a version of Nyay scheme, introduced in the 2019 Lok Sabha election guaranteeing Rs 72,000 per annum to every poor person.

Talking about the current controversy in connection with the alleged deep sea fishing contract, Mr. Gandhi said he doesn't like any unfair situation. "I am for competition, but not for unfair competition. So, there should be a level playing field for everyone. Every single day the fuel price goes up and you cannot buy an engine beyond a certain size. The boat cannot be maintained here, it has to be maintained somewhere else. At the same time the government is trying to build trawlers that will destroy your life. I am not saying everything should be done for your benefit, but some sense of fairness has to be there," he added.

While observing that globalisation has widened the divide between rich and poor, he observed it also has advantages. "Sonars for detecting fish and GPS are outcomes of globalisation, so we have to be clever with it. We have to take advantage of globalisation where it helps us and minimise the disadvantages. And right now corona has changed the world and we have to prepare us for a new paradigm."

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 6:27:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/rahul-interacts-with-fishermen-in-kerala-ventures-into-sea/article33920354.ece

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