In Focus

Published: Monday 31 March 1997

Indian fisherfolk are protesting again. They had demanded immediate cancellation of the existing licences issued to Joint venture, chartered, lease and test fishing vessels. Dismayed by the government's inaction on their demands, the fisherfolk launched an indefinite blockade of the Vishakhapatnam, Kandla and Mumbai ports in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra respectively on March 5. Led by the National Fishworkers' Forum (NFF) and the national Fisheries Action Committee Against Joint Ventures, the fisherfolk will also hold an indefinite dharna (sit-in demonstration) in New Delhi.

On February 13, the government announced that it would rescind the New Deep Sea Fishing Policy of 1991. However, the fisherfolk are not happy. They say that the government has not met their primary demand - the cancellation of existing licences.

Last year, the fisherfolk had gone on in indefinite fast at Mumbai in August to press for cancellation of licences. They had broken the fast after the minister of state for food processing, Dilip Kumar Ray, gave them a written assurance that the licences would be cancelled as per the Murari committees recommendations (Down To Earth, Vol 5, No 7). The minister had also said that the cancellation would be done after the licences were processed by the law ministry.

However, the law minister, Ramakant Khalap, told the NFF that there was no proposal from the food processing ministry. According to Thomas Kocherry, national convenor of the NFF, the annual fish availability in the Indian Ocean was one of the lowest in the world. Allowing foreign fishing vessels, which had already depleted the fish in the Pacific, Atlantic and the Mediterranean, would destroy the fish resources in the ocean in no time and would affect 80 lakh fisherfolk in the country.

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