Vol. XLIII No. 14 April 07, 2019
Array

AIFFWF Opposes Coastal Regulation Zone 2018

Hemalata

THE working committee of the All India Fishers and Fisheries Workers’ Federation met in Hingalganj in North 24 Paraganas district of West Bengal on January 22, 2019. More than 40 working committee members and invitees from seven states including Tripura, Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka participated in the meeting. Meetings of the subcommittees on marine, inland and allied sectors, constituted by the AIFFWF working committee met prior to this meeting and discussed the issues of fishers and fisheries workers in those sectors. These reports were submitted to the working committee.

The working committee expressed serious concern at the policies being implemented by the BJP led government at the centre, which were leading to the loss of livelihood to hundreds of thousands of fishers, particularly in the marine and allied sectors. The BJP led government recently issued the CRZ notification which would further worsen their conditions. This notification, based on the Shailesh Nayak Committee recommendations, is aimed at bringing down the area available to the fishers for their activities in the coast. The marine fishers carry out many of their activities, including parking their boats, drying the fish, repairing their nets etc on the coast and often live close to the sea coast. The 1991 CRZ notification provided certain safeguards to protect the coastal environment and also the livelihood of the coastal communities.  This was not only not being implemented effectively but has also been amended many times. The present BJP led government even did not hold consultations with the people in the coastal areas, the fishers and their representatives. Many commercial activities, including construction of tourist resorts, hotels, polluting factories and thermal plants etc will be allowed in these areas in the name of development. This will lead to the destruction of the sensitive mangroves and reduce availability of fish near the coast.

The BJP government has also proposed to build a dedicated maritime shipping corridor along the west coast extending from 15 nautical miles to 35 nautical miles, ostensibly to prevent ship boat collision. By curtailing the fishers’ right to sea, this is likely to restrict fishing in these waters and adversely affect the livelihood of the coastal fishers who fish along these waters.

The entry of big retailers like Reliance and e retail selling of fish has adversely affected the income of fish vendors, most of them women. Workers, again most of them women, employed in fish processing are deprived of minimum wages and other statutory benefits. The dismantling of the labour law enforcement machinery has worsened their conditions. Hundreds of fishers are being arrested by the neighbouring countries for crossing the international maritime borders and have been languishing in jail. Despite repeated demands from the fishers, the government has not come to an agreement with the neighbouring countries to resolve the issue.

In addition to addressing the local issues of fishers, the organisations affiliated to the AIFFWF in several states have been participating in joint actions on the issues of peasants and workers. Lakhs of fishers participated in the two days’ general strike called by the joint trade union movement on January 8-9, 2019, particularly in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Thousands of fishers participated in the kisan long march in West Bengal.

The working committee also noted the dangerous activities of the communal and casteist organisations which seek to divide the fishers and prevent united actions. The activities of such communal and casteist organisations have aggravated since the BJP came to power at the centre and in many states. Attacks on dalits and minorities, who constitute large sections among the fishers, have increased across the country.

In view of the prevalent situation, the working committee of the AIFFWF decided to campaign widely among the fishers on the adverse impact of the BJP led government and its poisonous communal divisive agenda on the lives and livelihoods of all sections of fishers and work for the defeat of the BJP in the ensuing parliament elections. It has also decided to conduct state level classes and workshops to raise the consciousness of fishers and develop cadres from among them and strengthen the organisation and expand it.

Despite the prevalent situation of terror in the state, the Hingalganj area committee and the state committees of Paschimbanga Rajya Matsyajibi Samiti made excellent arrangements for the meeting. The all India working committee members from the area provided accommodation to the members in their own houses and their family members also worked as volunteers. This was an entirely new experience for the working committee members from other states who have highly appreciated the arrangements. AIFFWF working committee wholeheartedly thanked the Hingalganj committee and the West Bengal state committee for making such good arrangements for the meeting.