With the seasonal trawl ban in force in Kerala for 52 days, the fishermen who have been rendered jobless look forward to days of poverty with the government yet to decide on providing livelihood assistance to them at times of their famine days.
Along with the declaration of trawl ban, the government also announces free ration. For many of them, ration is almost like free now when they get the commodities at a much reduced price. “As such free ration will not meet the needs. At least the government should give livelihood compensation to the fishermen who are rendered jobless at this time,” the fishworkers say.
Pointing out the struggle of fishermen during this time, the All Kerala Fishing Boat Owners Association and the National Fish Workers Forum has demanded adequate compensation to fishermen.
“Free ration is not going to give them any solace. Already many of the fishermen are getting ration at a much reduced price. So this free ration programme of the government that has been going on for years will not serve the purpose,” All Kerala Fishing Boat Owners Association general secretary Joseph Xavier told kadapuram.com.
Stating that they have given many representations to the government for providing adequate compensation during the trawl ban period, he said that the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu has been giving compensation to the fish workers during the ban period.
Joseph Xavier reiterated that the ban was not going to serve any purpose. He also pointed out that many of the studies have not yet proved that trawl ban have positive effects.
Pointing out that majority of the fishermen who had been working in mechanised boats would be rendered jobless during the ban period, National Fish Workers Forum General Secretary T Peter also demanded the government to come up with a programme to provide compensation to them.
He also stated that it was the government’s responsibility to protect these fishermen. “In Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, the governments are giving fishermen Rs 4000 each as compensation. In foreign countries also, a fixed amount is provided to fishermen during such ban periods. But in Kerala, the present as well as the past governments have not yet thought of such a programme but only have been providing free ration,” he said.
“Though the government proclaims free ration, most of the time it is not provided on time. If one calculates the price of ration, it may come around Rs 60 per person. So is the fishermen in Kerala worth only this much? The time of free ration is over and now the government should think of providing something substantial for the fishermen for his livelihood in the two months of ban period,” Peter said.
He also said that the fishermen deserved the compensation as they have been contributing a lot to the society. He mentioned about the 2018 floods that devastated Kerala where the fishermen had contributed a lot in saving the people. Moreover, they are also part of bringing in foreign money to the country and also serve as a security cover to the watery boundary of the country. “When the fishermen are doing all this, why cannot the government think of providing compensation to them?,” he asked.
The mechanised boat workers who are members of the Kerala Fishermen Welfare Board are eligible for Rs 4,500 during the trawl ban period once they pay Rs 250 for six months when the ban is not in place. However, the fishermen complain that they never get the amount that they are eligible on time. It is here where the various fishermen associations demand a comprehensive programme.
The Trawl ban began on the midnight of June 9 and will last till July 31.