Pearl divers struggle for survival

May 31, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:48 am IST

They urge the State government to extend old age pension

Now, pearl divers are like fish out of water.

V. Karupasamy, 75, a diver, said he used to collect about 2,000 to 3,000 pearl oysters every day. “By holding my breath for one and half minute, I used to dive into the sea at a depth of 12 fathoms to collect the most valuable treasure. The pearl fishery flourished until 1961. Later on, I got engaged myself in conch diving, which lasted till 2002,” he said.

He used to earn Rs. 150 a day. The period from January to April used to be the most productive season for diving. The divers were allowed to keep one third of oysters collected and the rest with the government, he said.

T. Ganapathy (73) of Mettupatti said his family was praying for a miracle. In those days, the divers, who were involved in collection of pearl oysters, took risk and contributed to revenue generation of the state government. But their lives are miserable now.

He said he was finding it difficult even to meet medical expenditure. He appealed to the government to provide Rs. 5,000 a month considering plight of poor divers. According to Joe Austin, marine biologist, Thoothukudi, gears used by divers of those days had led to lung and eye diseases.

S. Paramasivan, president, Muthu Sangu Kooturavu Sangam, Threspuram, said that there are only 15 to 20 divers in their mid 70s and 80s. They are struggling for livelihood and pray for old age pension benefits, he said.

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