Indian Fishermen at risk of being wiped out due to new shipping corridor

Written by CJP | Published on: October 15, 2018

If fishermen cross the international waters, they are vulnerable to capture by other nations or at risk of dying from natural calamities. If they fish in the corridor, the govt will arrest them for trespassing.

Indian Fishermans

The National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) will be agitating at sea with their boats parked in defiance on Oct 30 against the September notification by the Government of India which has proposed a designated corridor for merchant ships to avoid ship-boat collisions in mid sea.

The national level protest will have fishermen joining from Kutch, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The Director General of Shipping (DGS) is in the process of notifying a designated corridor for merchant ships to avoid ships and fishing boats collision in mid sea, the current move from the DGS can be seen as unilateral to protect the interests of commercial shipping companies by completely sidelining the livelihood interests of fishermen in India.

The DGS is planning for a corridor which is 15 nautical miles away from the coastline with 20 nautical miles width. This is the main fishing ground for the traditional and mechanized sector. The fisherfolk argue that territorial waters can only be up to 12 miles approx. 22 kms, beyond which the International maritime borderline begins. If the corridor is kept between 15 miles with a width of 20 miles, fishermen will be left with nothing. About four million people are dependent on the current coastal economy.

If fishermen cross the international waters, they are vulnerable to capture by other nations or at risk of dying from natural calamities. If they fish in the corridor, the govt will arrest them for trespassing. The NFF argues that how can any man claim sovereignty of the sea? About 500 Gujarati fishermen are languishing in Pakistani jails due to the pressure of deep sea fishing. About 79 Kerala fishermen involved with deep sea fishing died in cyclone Ockhi and hundreds are still missing.

“The present move from the side of DGS is to completely stop fishing operations. Though the DGS is saying that the corridor will not be uniform along the coast, this cannot be acceptable to the fishermen who are solely dependent on it for their livelihoods. The fishermen will not only lose their fishing ground but may become liable and punishable for trespassing in the corridor,” the NFF said.

In this context, National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) executive committee and fishermen leaders meeting was held on October 7, 2018 at Velsao Panchayat hall, Goa and decided that National wide protest campaign against the proposed shipping corridor will be held on 30th October in all the coastal states. All fishermen will protest with their country boats and mechanized boats in the sea, wherever possible.

Speaking to Sabrang India, Thomas Peter, the General Secretary of NFF from Kerala said that the govt was acting on corporate interest to implement their SagarMala project which connects all the ports in India. “We are trying to meet the minister for shipping and the govt but they haven’t spoken to us. How can they take such a decision without knowing how will it affect the fishermen community and people dependent on the coast for livelihood? If we go deep sea fishing beyond 15 nautical miles, we won’t be able to find proper fish, consumers won’t get what they need and we will lose our livelihoods. If we trespass the corridor, we get arrested. If we go into international waters, we get arrested. The ministers sitting in Delhi don’t understand what they are doing in the name of development,” he said.

The SagarMala project consists of 415 projects worth 8 lakh crores. The project was a move to enter the blue economy which is a development strategy that uses sea transport for economic gain. The SagarMala project aims to develop ports, coastal economic zones, inland waterways and other infrastructure projects. The govt predicted that the project will become a $10 trillion economy by 2032.

Nitin Gadkari, the minister for shipping and water resources had said, “Our port-led development program will create opportunities for investors and employment for the youth,” with regards to SagarMala project. He also said recently that BJP made a number of tall claims which they knew they couldn’t execute just to grab power at the Centre.

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