With the Centre once again slashing the kerosene quota of Kerala, traditional fishers say they are forced to depend on cheap adulterated kerosene leading to premature engine deterioration.
While phasing out kerosene and opting for clean energy subsidies are part of India’s net zero commitment, a large percentage of Kerala fishers still use the fuel to power their crafts.
“We are going through the annual lean season and the authorities are not keen on resuming the kerosene supply. We buy kerosene from private parties who source it mainly from Tamil Nadu and its use is affecting the performance of our outboard engines. Though the authorities say there is shortage due to the cut in allocations from Central pool, it’s always available on black market,” says Cleetus, a fisher. While the State is promoting sustainable options including the switch to liquefied petroleum gas to reduce the carbon footprint, many fishers are sceptical about it.
“We had tried LPG around 10 years back and it was not a success. They have restarted the engine conversion programme with subsidy, but it’s not practical considering our fleet size. Since LPG prices are also on the rise and what we need is fuel subsidy for all boats,” says Jackson Pollayil, president, Kerala Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation. He adds that despite a budget allocation for subsidised fuel in previous years, nobody received anything from the ₹60 crore earmarked for the purpose.
“There was a time when we used to get around 600 litres for an outboard 9.9 HP engine and then kerosene was widely used for cooking. But now it’s use as a cooking fuel has come down, but we get a small percentage compared to our requirement,” he says. Traditional fishers also point out that the scarcity of kerosene is only limited to Kerala as the neighbouring Tamil Nadu has been providing the fuel at subsidised rates.
“All permit holders in Tamil Nadu get 500 litres of kerosene every month for ₹50 per litre. We buy it for ₹102 from Matsyafed bunks which is hardly cheaper compared to the open market price of ₹105. In Kerala we have nearly 12,000 boats that use it. They are charging a huge amount for issuing permits, but they are not even providing sufficient amount of fuel. A considerable percentage of the traditional fishers are not venturing into the sea these days due to this,” says Matsyathozhilali Congress leader Biju Lukose.