The recommendations of an expert Committee appointed by the Central government on India’s marine fisheries policy and existing guidelines for deep-sea fishing are inviting widespread criticisms and protests by organizations of fishermen in the coastal areas.
The seven-member Committee headed by Dr. B Meenakumari, the Deputy Director General (Fisheries)was appointed after PM Modi made an appeal for a “Blue Revolution” in July last year. The Committee report submitted in August 2014 is yet to be approved by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture and has recommendations which the fishermen claim are “part of a conspiracy to sell India’s fisheries resources to big foreign and domestic companies”. The latest decision taken by the Modi government based on the report has angered the fishermen and boat owners as it has been taken without consultations with the Parliament, the representatives of the people or taking into account the views of the stakeholders in the marine fishing sector, just like the Indo US nuclear deal. The “Blue Revolution” was to enhance the country’s marine resource management and utilization. The Committee was appointed to review deep-sea fishing policies and guidelines and to submit recommendations in this regard.
Earlier, the foreign boats did not have the permission to go beyond 100 nautical miles. But according to Meenakumari Commission report, they could now scale beyond 12 nautical miles and fish nearer to Indian shores. The panel also says that the country lacks adequate expertise or resources to exploit beyond 500 m in deep-sea and therefore the acquisition of foreign fishing vessels or joint ventures should be considered to enable technology transfer. Our boats need to be equipped with adequate technical facilities and provisions. The Murari Committee appointed by the Centre in 1996, had reviewed the fisheries sector and given recommendations to revamp the sector. The Committee said that no joint venture with foreign companies should be allowed in the Indian waters. The Modi government has pandered to foreign demands despite the recommendations of former Fisheries Survey of India Director Dr K Vijayakumar. The recommendations would definitely affect Kerala the most as it has about 30, 000 native boats fishing along Kerala shores. The latest government decision to revamp the marine fisheries sector will badly affect the fishermen making their life miserable and are against the national interests and public welfare. Giving priority to corporate interests will only aggravate the scenario.