Oldest fishermen community needs lessons on Human Rights

With majority of the members of Koli Community, who are the traditional fishermen in Mumbai, lacking awareness of their fundamental rights, the Human Rights at Sea has called for educating and creating awareness among the community.

The Non Profit Organisation that conducted a study of Koli community has called for associating with the fishermen cooperative societies for creating awareness, imparting information and holding training sessions so that the members become more aware of their rights. The Human Rights At Sea in its report also said that no attempt has been made by the Government or the societies to create awareness about Fundamental or Human Rights.    

The report also calls for improving dissemination of information among the Koli members. It says that information is now shared through social media platforms such as facebook and whatsapp. The Human rights at Sea says that these social platforms could be used to spread awareness about Human Rights.  

In the report, they also say that the service of the educated members in the Koli community could be used for spreading awareness about their rights.

The report notes that Koli community is seen to be drifting away from the profession and taking up other professions. The majority of the Koli community members who are working as fishermen are middle aged. Noting that a drastic change was seen in the community as a whole in the last 20 years, the report says that fishing that was a promising industry in the 1990s saw a decline in the last five years.  

Stating that fishing sector did not get the same treatment as that of the other sectors, especially the agriculture sector, the report says that Maharashtra, where the Koli community is concentrated, received the lowest subsidies when compared to other states.

Another issue that the report points out is the communities’ reluctance to engage with charitable organizations and NGOs. They fear of adverse impact if they get associated with these organizations.

The report also has included interviews of fishermen, their associations and officials. The report quotes Karanja Fishing Cooperative Society Limited Director and Purse Seine Welfare Association chairman Ganesh Nakhawa as saying that there has be no effort on the side of the cooprerative societies as well as the Central Fisheries Department for spreading awareness about Human Rights. He also told Human Rights at Sea that the fishermen community should be made more aware of Human Rights.

A fisherman from Worli told the NGO that he was not aware of Human Rights. In the interview, the fishermen also raised concern about subsidies not reaching the fishermen and also about the hurdles in getting the subsidies, if at all. They also point out illegal fishing by Chinese vessels and also infrastructure development along the coast. One of the fishermen said that the community was showing signs of diminishing as the younger generation were going after other jobs. They also lament that this would not have happened if they had got more fish.

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