Fishermen feel ex gratia of ₹4,000 for 61-day period is too meagre
Mechanised and motorised fishing boats have ventured into the Bay of Bengal for the last voyage, as the 61-day ban on fishing in the Indian waters is coming into vogue from the early hours of April 15 to facilitate the breeding season of the fish.
At a time when the fishermen are eagerly waiting for their dues of the ex gratia towards the ban period for the last year and the year before that, officials of the Fisheries Department are now focussing on imposing the ban in a strict manner, besides clearing the pending bills on a war-footing.
Of the 974-km-long coastline in Andhra Pradesh, East Godavari accounts for 161 km, along which over 3.5 lakh people belonged to fishermen community are residing in about 100 villages and hamlets. Though the official records indicate that 66,777 people are eking out a livelihood from seawater fishing, at least half of them are going to get affected by the fishing ban, with 2,168 motorised boats and 469 mechanised boats venturing into the sea for fishing. Besides imposing the ban, the government has announced an ex gratia of ₹ 4,000 for each fisherman for the 61 days and the amount will be credited directly into their bank accounts.
Admitting that there were discrepancies in the distribution of ex gratia in the previous years, Deputy Director of the Fisheries Department S. Angeli attributes the chaos to improper maintenance of bank accounts and lopsided seeding of the accounts with Aadhaar. “The accounts are with different banks and we are on the job of meeting the bank officials and rectifying the mistakes,” she said.
The department has made registration of the boats mandatory to make the fishermen concerned eligible for the ex gratia from this season. “An ex gratia of a mere ₹ 4,000 for a 61-day period won’t serve any purpose. Our counterparts from the neighbouring Union Enclave are withdrawing ₹ 8,000 for the same period, and the government should make uniform payment to all the fisherfolks,” points out Kamadi Matha Raju, former president of the Kakinada Mechanised Fishing Boat Owners’ Welfare Association.
“How can the government implement the ban in a proper manner, without paying the ex gratia in advance? In the absence of money to meet the both ends, the fishermen are forced to violate the ban and venture into the sea,” says Dasari Satyanarayana, founder-president of the Coastal Rights Protection Committee.
“Ex gratia amount is being finalised and released by the State government. From out part, we are going to implement the ban very strictly by deputing six surveillance teams,” says Ms. Angeli.
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