The convention in Porbandar was organized on 4th October to highlight the issues fishing communities in the state of Gujarat faces. Activists from various parts of Gujarat attended it. At the end the declaration was released.
The fishing industry in India is going through a difficult time. Consequently, the traditional fishing communities of India are suffering immensely. Fishermen living in the state of Gujarat’s 1214.7 km coastline, which is longest in the country, contribute to the treasury maximum by way of foreign exchange. Nevertheless, they face multiple issues in engaging in their livelihood.
The fishworkers face the negative impact of pollution primarily because of the growing number of industries on the coastline. The industrial pollution is leading to the virtual non availability of fish in the seas closer to the landmass. At the same time, the arrest of fishermen trespassing the maritime boarder by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) has become a major issue as arrest of the bread winner of the family compels the family members to go through a tough time. It is the same when Pakistani fishermen are arrested by Indian Coast Guard.
We, the undersigned, are members of various districts, state and national level fishworker unions and solidarity groups who represent and support the traditional, small scale fishing community of the state of Gujarat. As representatives of the community we have the responsibility to monitor the policies being developed by the state with regards to our livelihoods. Various policies implemented at the center and the state level impact the livelihoods of the fishworkers along the entire harvest chain, including women and those who seek employment in this sector.
Over the years, steadily and in opposition to the demands of the fishworkers community, the Gujarat coast has been auctioned off to private players. These private players have built a magnitude of industrial projects, cement manufacturing units, tourism plans and thermal power plants along the state’s coastline. We have witnessed the degeneration of the marine ecology and the subsequent impact on fish population in the Gujarat seas due to the industrial development and the ensuing pollution. However, despite communities’ consistent complaints against coastal regulation zone violations and polluting projects, the Government of India and Gujarat state bureaucracy has determinedly not taken any action. Today our livelihoods are under threat from this model of development which is also responsible for gross human rights violations of the fishworkers community.
When confronted on these matters, the Government of India and Gujarat state bureaucracy has blamed ‘fishworkers greed’ to be the reason for the depletion in fish abundance, as well as for the issue of fishworkers arrests in Pakistan. However this argument distracts from the underlying questions regarding the industrial expansion along the state’s coastline and its detrimental effects.
It is in this context that we came together and organised a fishworkers convention and public hearing.
This declaration unanimously states that we:
- Demand the state to fulfill its obligation of guaranteeing us our fundamental rights as citizens of this nation
- Demand that the state clearly define a traditional fishworker and a traditional fishworking community
- Demand that the traditional, small scale fishing community be treated equitably and not be reduced to the status of a ‘stakeholder’ in the coastal development plans
- Reject the feeble political appeasement exercises by successive central and state governments thus far
In addition, we set forth our demands on specific matters below:
- Demands related to the coast:
- Implement the submissions related to Coastal Regulation by the National Coastal Protection Campaign dated 10thSeptember, 2017 attached herewith
- Stop all proposed industrial development projects along the coastline until the conditions of point 1 above are implemented
- Monitor the legal and environmental compliance of all existing projects
- Stop the interlinking of rivers under the National Waterways Act, 2016
- Stop the release of industrial effluents into the open ocean and close plants that have an established history of non-compliance
- Demands related to the transnational maritime boundary arrests between India and Pakistan:
- Simultaneously and mutually release of arrested/detained fishermen from both countries
- Raise the monthly compensation for all the fishworkers from 150 INR/day to 500 INR/day, payable until they are released, repatriated and have reached home
- Provide a monthly compensation to the boat owners 500 INR/day until the boat is returned to them
- Develop a ‘No Arrest’ policy where fishing vessels are inspected at sea and returned to their country of registration
- Begin a conversation along with the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum to allow the boats from either country to access the other’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
- Work towards fostering a relationship where traditional fishworkers from both countries can share a mid-ocean fishing ground such that it is mutually beneficial to fishers from both countries
- Properly implement existing state guidelines regarding arrest, release and compensation of fishworkers
- Call for Indian and Pakistani security agencies to monitor the International Maritime Boundary Line and pre-emptively prevent the boats registered to their respective countries from crossing out of the country’s jurisdiction
- Implement the Agreement on Consular Access and guarantee its availability
- Fix the time limit of 90 days for nationality verification.
- Immediately release the pending payment for construction of replacement boats for seized ones as per application made in 2012
- Demands related to the fishworkers operations:
- Implement a dedicated fisheries ministry at the centre
- Provide compensation to the family of the deceased from the Porbandar firing incident
- Provide compensation to the families of the fishworkers who lost their lives in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack
- Increase the annual quota of subsidized diesel from 21000-24000 liters to 36000-42000 liters
- Implement a relief fund for fishworkers who’s boats have been lost due to events of force majeure
- Implement price floors to reduce the daily fluctuation in fish selling prices
- Remove the imposition of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on dried fish and fishing equipment
- Develop a national legislation that bans destructive fishing methods such as Dynamite fishing, fishing using Lights and Purse Seine fishing
- Demand for facilities on land for the fishworkers:
- Provide all landing sites and docks (bandars) with:
– Civic infrastructure such as water, roads, electricity, lighting, water etc.
– Sanitation facilities such as toilets, washing areas etc.
– Medical first aid facilities to deal with accidents in the fishing community
– Cold storage facilities
– Safety facilities such as fire protection and basic life-saving gear
- Implement education facilities for the youth in the fishing villages
- Provide mechanisms to compensate boat owners upon collisions/accidents caused by other merchant traffic in port
- Implement a helpline to assist fishworkers at sea
- Demands of Pilana Association:
- Implement changes to make fuel purchasing more favourable:
– Provide credit based purchasing systems
– Increase quantity of fuel available on subsidy
– Make subsidy on fuel available at source, as opposed to as a reimbursement
– Extend fuel purchasing schemes beyond the GFCCA outlets to approved traders to make fuel more accessible
– Increase the subsidy availing capacity of fuel to 500 liters from the current reduced capacity of 34 liters
- Demands from Bharuch:
- Stop the plans to construct the Bhadbhut dam
- Stop the undemocratic dispossession of communities affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam
- Demand from Nargol:
- Stop the development of ports in the area which are proposed to be constructed on the fishing grounds
- Demand from Jakhau:
- Ensure implementation of existing water supply water facilities along, with the required supply and drainage infrastructure
- Demands from Narayan Sarovar:
- Re-survey the construction of the jetty at Pir Panjora with the aim to shift it to another location. The current location of the jetty will block 2 creeks, the flowing of which is critical to the community
- Lift the unofficial restriction by the Border Security Force which limits fishers to access the fishing grounds for only 2 days per week
- Make provisions so that the community can access the government schemes related to fisheries
Signed on the 4th of October, 2017 at Porbandar, Gujarat:
– Shree Akhil Gujarat Machhimar Mahamandal
– Bharat D Modi (President), Shree Porbandar Machhimar Boat Association
– Sunil D Gohil (President), Shree Porbandar Samast Kharwa Gnati
– Porbandar Macchimaar Pilanna Association
– Seafood Export Association, Porbandar
– Vijayan MJ/ Usman Shersia, National Fishworkers Forum
– Jakhau Boat Association, Abdul Shah Peerzada
– Jatin Desai, General Secretary, Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace & Democracy
– Mujahid Nafees, Gujarat Collective
– Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan
– Arav Hadvaram (President), Aljilani Matsyaudhyog Seva Sahakari Mandii Limited