The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Fisheries Department to disburse compensation to fishermen who lost their livelihood due to the spilling of bunker oil off the Kamarajar port in Ennore near here on January 28, 2017, when two vessels BW Maple and MT Dawn Kanchipuram collided with each other accidentally.
A Division Bench of Justices S. Manikumar and V. Bhavani Subbaroyan ordered that the compensation to all eligible farmers be paid within four weeks.
The direction was issued on a public interest litigation petition filed by ‘Meenava Thanthai’ K.R. Selvaraj Kumar of a fishermen’s welfare association based in Chennai.
During the course of arguments, it was brought to the notice of the court that the massive oil spill affected the shores of Tiruvallur, Chennai and Kancheepuram districts.
The Fisheries Department constituted 18 teams, with 65 officials, to collect and collate claims from individual fishermen and also through their cooperative societies. The applications were received between February 22 and March 30, 2017, and a proposal was sent to the government for providing a compensation of ₹230.07 crore to 1,12,051 fishermen.
Thereafter, the estimated operational cost of ₹26.85 crore for mechanised boats and country craft was reduced and a fresh proposal for ₹203.225 crore was forwarded to the government. Since there was a delay in getting the money from the shipping companies, the government decided to step in as an interim measure.
On March 3, 2017, the government sanctioned ₹15 crore at the rate of ₹5,000 to 30,000 affected fishermen and the money was disbursed to 29,769 of them.
Apart from this, ₹75 lakh was sanctioned, in anticipation of Corporate Social Responsibility funds from the shipping companies, for construction of fish markets at Ernavoor in Tiruvallur and Nochikuppam in Chennai. Subsequently, the shipping companies released ₹97.95 lakh under CSR funds. Further, the insurers of MT Dawn Kanchipuram released an advance amount of ₹15 crore and remitted it to the government account.
Meantime, the National Green Tribunal issued a direction to receive claims from fishermen up to August 10, 2017.
The directive led to filing of 21,382 claims of which 18,416 were found to have been duplicated by those who had already made claims through their cooperative societies.
Further, 524 applications were rejected for various reasons and 2,442 alone were accepted. It raised the total claim to ₹240 crore.