February 22, 2015

Fishers Federation Calls for Rejection of Meena Kumari Committee recommendations

THE All India Fishers and Fisheries Workers’ Federation (AIFFWF) strongly condemned the retrograde recommendations of the Meena Kumari Committee report and demanded the government of India to reject them totally.

The meeting of the extended working committee of AIFFWF, which was held in the coastal town of Udupi in Karnataka on February 13-14, 2015 discussed in detail the Meena Kumari Committee recommendations on Deep Sea Fishing Policy and Guidelines and the impact of the Coastal Regulation Zone notification (CRZ) 2011 on the fishers. The meeting was attended by around 60 members and invitees from nine states including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura and West Bengal. M M Lawrence, vice president of AIFFWF presided over the meeting. Hemalata, general secretary, placed the report and proposals for future actions.

The committee held that the Meena Kumari Committee report was unscientific and arbitrary and was only meant to facilitate entry of foreign deep sea fishing vessels into Indian Exclusive Economic Zone to the detriment of our own fishers. It has to be seen as part of the government policies under the neo-liberal regime, which seeks to transfer public wealth to private hands by handing over our natural resources including land, mines, water bodies, forests, spectrum etc to the big national and multinational corporations. The present BJP led government was resorting to ‘ordinance raj’ and displaying authoritative tendencies to thwart opposition to these policies.

It has also noted that while the CRZ is being freely violated displacing lakhs of fishers from the coast in many states on the pretext of developmental activities, fishers and other traditional dwellers on the coast are not being allowed to repair, reconstruct or extend their houses, particularly in Kerala, on the pretext of implementing the CRZ notification. Though the union minister for environment and forests has assured a delegation of AIFFWF that necessary amendments would be made to CRZ, nothing has been done till now.

AIFFWF working committee noted that fishers were among the sections particularly targeted by the RSS and other communal forces to polarise people on communal lines. Majority of them are under the influence of the casteist forces which seek to isolate them from the broader people’s struggles. AIFFWF decided to multiply its efforts to strengthen the unity of fishers by developing joint movements on the specific issues of all segments of fishers, concentrating on their local problems. It has also emphasised the need to mobilise fishers in large numbers in the campaigns and struggles on the demands of the toiling people like price rise, strengthening PDS, social security benefits for all, MGNREGA etc. It has also called upon the fishers to participate in large numbers in the country wide joint trade union ‘Satyagraha’ on February 26, 2015 demanding pension for all, setting up of national fund for unorganised workers under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, social security for all, curtailing price rise, strengthening of PDS etc, among others.

AIFFWF working committee decided to take initiative to develop a joint country wide movement demanding rejection of Meena Kumari Committee recommendations and necessary amendments to the CRZ. It has decided to organise a national joint convention on the issues in Visakhapatnam in June 2015. This will be followed by state and district level conventions wherever possible in the coastal states. Wide campaign will be conducted to create awareness about the dangerous implications of these recommendations.

The working committee also discussed the problems of the other segments of the fishers including inland fishers, fish vendors, fish processing workers and other allied workers. It called upon all its state and lower level committees to launch strong movements involving fishers in a massive scale on the local issues including housing, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, health, education of their children, ration cards, provision of free seedlings, subsidised diesel, kerosene, nets etc, cheap institutional credit, democratic functioning of the cooperatives etc. It has decided to organise a ‘March to Parliament’ on the issues of Meena Kumari Committee recommendations, CRZ, higher allocations for the welfare of fishers, etc during the monsoon session of the parliament.

The Committee thanked the Udupi district committee of the CITU and the Fishers’ organisation for making excellent arrangements for the meeting despite their limited resources.

A public meeting of fishers was held on the occasion near the harbour in which hundreds of local fishers participated. The meeting which was presided by Sankar, president of the Udupi district fishers’ organisation was addressed by Hemalata, general secretary, M M Lawrence, vice president of AIFFWF and Prasanna Kumar, general secretary of Karnataka state committee of CITU. Balakrishna Shetty, general secretary of Udupi district committee of CITU welcomed the gathering. Leaders of some of the local independent organisations of fishers also participated in the public meeting.