Sebastin had always dreamt of a better home and a better life without the fear of the sea swallowing his house. However, he never thinks of leaving the shores to another place far away from where his livelihood remains. This what majority of the fishermen think of when hearing of the Kerala government’s special rehabilitation programme for fishermen.
The Kerala government’s special rehabilitation programme for fishermen is yet to be received well with majority of them not willing to leave the beaches where they had sweat their lives.
The state government has come up with the programme with the aim to rehabilitate those who are living within 50 metres away from the sea. Those are willing to move away from the 50 metre distance would be provided Rs ten lakh for buying land and building homes. Those who have land would be given Rs four lakh for building homes. And others would be provided place in flats.
The fishermen community are quite apprehensive over the decision as they point out that the government has come up with an impractical programme. They say that it was a utopian thought to buy land for the Rs six lakh that the government provides and to build a home for Rs four lakh.
Talking to kadapuram.com, National Fish Workers Forum General Secretary T Peter said “the government has said that they would be rehabilitated within 200 metres. It is not practical that the fishermen find land themselves. Instead the government should identify lands and build homes for them.”
Moreover, he was also critical of the government in giving Rs ten lakh and asking them to move away from the present land. “This cannot be agreed. The government should identify land and then rehabilitate them. It was difficult to get land for the money that the government provides. Moreover, a house cannot be built in the amount that is provided,” he said.
Noting that the National Fish Workers Forum was not for rehabilitating all the people within 50 metres, Peter said that they were of the opinion that rehabilitation should only be effected in places where there is much threat of beach erosion.
Instead of flats, he opined that individual houses would be better. Noting that fishermen family were not nuclear families, he said that the government should provide more spacious flats.
Stating that the special rehabilitation could be welcome for those who are staying within 20 meters or less from the sea, All India Fishermen Congress Secretary Adolf Moris said that it was not at all practical as majority of the fishermen would not be moving away to another place.
On providing Rs ten lakh for land and house, he said “everyone knows about the land value. If the government is coming up with some package, then it should provide assistance as per the market value.”
He also opined that the government should make a classification of the people who have to be rehabilitated. “The people who are being rehabilitated should be provided with proper compensation for the property that they have to give up while being rehabilitated,” he said.
“The concept of flat itself is not good for the community. It is only going to create colonies where all the people are huddled in one place. If the government has good intentions, they should come up with programmes of providing assistance for individual homes,” he said.
He also alleged that the government had stopped the housing programme for fishermen after the Left government came and were now trying to bring in a new housing scheme. “We demand that the housing programme should be reinstalled under the fisheries department,” he said.
Meanwhile, Theeradesha Vanitha Federation president Maglin Philomena questioned the move by the government, stating that the government was only going for temporary solution. “The beach is shrinking every year. I am only asking how many people are they going to rehabilitate and how many years. It is not a practical solution. The government should first of all find a solution to erosion,” she said.
Despite having scientific studies on erosion, the government is only going for temporary measures. She also mentioned that erosion at Valiyathura and Anjuthengu in Thiruvanathapuram was because of the Vizhinjam port and Muthalapozhi. Apart from this, Chellanam has also been witnessing much erosion and the dredging of Kochi Port is said to be the main reason for this.
On the government’s move to provide flats, Maglin Philomena said that her association was of the opinion that the fishermen should be provided individual houses. Pointing out that vast stretch of public land was available near the beach across the state, she said that the government should take over these lands and build homes here instead of flats. Moreover, she said that the flats that the government proposed should have enough space and not like the ones that have been provided. “Ours is a big family and so we need a more space. The government should at least provide a 1000 square feet flat if the government wants our welfare,’ she said.
Matsya Thozhilali Union (CITU) Thiruvananthapuram general secretary Kennedy welcomed the decision and said that the government had come up with a scheme with the good intention for the safety of fishermen. On reports that fishermen were not willing to move out of the beaches as it was closely related to their work, he said “the land or the flat that is being provided is not going to be far away from the beach. Moreover, the fishermen need not take away their fishing equipment back home as the beach could be used for them,” he said. The government has only the good intention to better the livelihood of the fishermen, he added. On the demand that the flats should be more spacious than the present one, Kennedy said that all these issues could be discussed with the Fisheries Minister, who always stood for the fishermen and their welfare.