Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally launched the project to promote deep-sea fishing among Ramanathapuram fishermen by handing over work orders to five fishermen for the construction of tuna long-liners with gill nets.
Deep-sea fishing, a project of the Central and State governments, has been touted as the remedy for the problems faced by fishermen of Ramanathapuram district in the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy.
Recently, Sri Lanka had passed a law banning bottom trawling in its territorial waters in the Palk Bay. But many fishermen are apprehensive that the assistance package being offered for them to transition to deep-sea fishing does not address all their concerns.
P. Jesuraj, a prominent leader of the fisherfolk of Ramanathapuram, feels that the norms of the project regarding beneficiary contribution are not realistic. “We have been hit very badly because of Sri Lankan authorities frequently arresting our fishermen and impounding our boats. Fishing days in the Palk Bay have gone down drastically over the years.
Under such circumstances, it would be a huge burden for us to make the contribution of ₹8 lakh, accounting for 10% of the cost of every tuna long-liner cum gill netter boat,” he said.
Pointing out that his brother is one of the beneficiaries chosen for the deep-sea fishing project, Mr. Jesuraj says that the fishermen would find it extremely difficult to provide collateral security to banks for loans as they do not have high value immoveable assets.
Fishermen will also find it difficult to adhere to the stipulation of selling their trawlers and meeting their contribution, he said.
Responding to the concerns of the fisherfolk, Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar told The Hindu that “the project will be fine-tuned if our attention is drawn to hurdles in the implementation of the project.”
A senior official in the State Fisheries Department explains that the share of beneficiary contribution is a mere 10% of the cost of every boat while the Central government will meet 50% of the cost and the State government, 20%. The remaining 20% will be through institutional finance or loan component.
Originally, the loan component was 30% and the share of the State, 10%. The changes have been made so that fishermen-beneficiaries are not put to much hardship.
No collateral needed
Besides, the fishermen have to chip in their contribution only at a later stage.
The norms on beneficiary contribution were finalised after holding discussion with the fishing community, he said.
As for collateral security, the State Level Bankers’ Committee has clarified that banks need not insist on this form of security as the loan component is only a small portion of the total cost.
The department official adds that as part of the “de-escalation” of the conflict in the Palk Bay, no new trawler will be allowed to be registered in the Bay. This follows a “request” from fishermen from five districts including Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai and Nagapattinam.