With the State government reportedly failing to fulfil its promise of disbursing ex gratia amount to fishermen towards the 61-day ban on fishing in the territorial waters to facilitate breeding season, some of the fishermen using mechanised fishing boats are forced to violate the norms and venture into the sea for fishing in East Godavari district.
Even as the fishermen are waiting for their dues from the previous years, the fresh ban has been promulgated for 61 days from April 15, coupled with a promise from the State government that the payment for the season would be made in advance through online transactions.
In a district with a coastline of 161 km and a population of 66,777, of which about 24,000 eke out a living from seawater fishing, the ban forced 2,168 motorised boats and 469 mechanised boats to stay away from venturing into the sea. It has a cascading affect on the livelihood of fishermen, who are habituated only to catch fish using the mechanised and motorised boats. Even as they were promised an ex gratia of Rs. 4,000 per head towards the season and told that the same would be credited into their bank accounts at the commencement of the ban, nothing has been happened so far. As a result, a good number of fishermen from the interior hamlets are venturing into the sea during the midnights. Officials of the Fisheries Department too are admitting the violations and stating that it would be very difficult for the staff-starved department to ensure the implementation of the ban. When it comes to the payment of ex gratia, the officials attribute it to the paucity of funds and say they are hopeful of making the first bunch of payments by June 15, facilitating payment to at least 15,000 beneficiaries.
Though traditional fishermen, who use non-motorised boats, got an exemption from the ban, they too are facing challenges in the form of the police. “Police personnel from the Uppada Kothapalli police station are keeping a vigil on those who are buying fish — even in small quantities — and levying on them unauthorised fines,” complains Dasari Satyanarayana, founder-president of the NGO Coastal Rights Protection Committee. “Ironically, the police are focussing only on small players. They prefer not to see the violation of fishing ban,” he rues.