Economy

COVID-19: Traditional fisherfolk left in the lurch

They are not included in PM-Kisan and hence are not eligible for benefits similar to farmers

 
By Ishan Kukreti
Last Updated: Monday 30 March 2020
A fisherman pulls back his net in the waters of the Tawa reservoir in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE

The Rs 1.7 lakh crore economic package announced by the government to cope with the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will bypass 1.6 crore traditional fish workers in the country, according to the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), a national-level organisation of fish workers in India.

Their concern stems from the fact that fish workers aren't included in the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme and are therefore not eligible for the Rs 2,000 that the government is to give to farmers under the scheme.

“In February 2020, the Department of Fisheries wrote to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, citing the inclusion of fish workers in the PM-KISAN scheme. However, there has been no confirmation of the same until the time of the start of the lockdown,” the organisation wrote in a letter.

The letter was sent to Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Minister of State, Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying on March 26, 2020.

“Those who are below the poverty line will get some relief, but others, like the boat owners, boat workers, fish workers won’t get any relief,” said Anil Tharayath Varghese of Delhi Solidarity Group.

“Because of the lockdown and the slump in imports, the livelihood of marine fish workers has taken a hit, and on top of it, the government has left them out of the relief package also,” he added.

The NFF has asked the government to give a monthly allowance of Rs 10,000 for the next three months to all fish workers and those engaged in allied activities.

The organisation has also asked the government to create a relief package in consultation with fish worker organisations.

With India going into a lockdown since March 24, many traditional fish workers have also been stranded away from home.

“We would like to bring to your notice that a large number of migrant workers from different states have been stranded on fishing vessels and fish-landing sites across the country,” the organisation wrote to the minister in another letter sent on March 27.

“With the lockdown, they do not have any avenue to return to their own villages, and are thus are stranded in unfamiliar locations,” it added.

The organisation has asked the minister to personally look into the matter and ensure the safety of the stranded people.

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