Sector caught between lockdown and wicked governments – The New Indian Express


Express news service

KOCHI: It’s the worst misfortune we’ve ever encountered. It is very difficult to resume a normal life. We don’t think about suicide because it’s against our religion, ”said Mohammed Haneefa Haji, owner of fishing boats in Beypore, holding a bunch of foreclosure notices served by banks. . Everything was normal until the announcement of confinement in March 2020.

Before that, if one boat does not have enough fish, another will compensate and I could pay off the EMI loan on time. However, we are unable to operate for the past 15 months and there is no income. The authorities talk about a moratorium but the banks don’t care. I had given my house as collateral for the loan and the banks can take it anytime, ”Haneefa Haji said in a broken voice.

This is not a one-off incident. Containment has become catastrophic for the fishing industry. About 95 percent of mechanized fishing boat owners, traditional fishermen, traders, fish processing unit owners and exporters are facing an unprecedented crisis.

“The price of diesel has touched Rs 93 per liter. For a one week fishing expedition we need diesel worth Rs 5 lakh. Salaries, daily battles, ice packs and food are other expenses. We should get a hold worth Rs 8 lakh to get returns which is just a dream these days. Last year we operated boats for only 60 days. There hasn’t been any improvement this year either, ”said PP Gireesh, chairman of the Munambam-Vypeen Fisheries Protection Committee. The association of fishing vessel operators has approached the Union Fisheries Ministry demanding that diesel be included in the GST regime.

“The biggest challenge is the current rise in the price of diesel. In addition, the anti-fishing attitude of the government of Kerala has exacerbated the crisis. While the annual license fee in neighboring states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is only Rs 3,500, it is Rs 52,000 in Kerala. In addition, the fisheries authorities impose heavy fines in the name of juvenile fishing. If the situation continues like this, the fishing industry could migrate to other states, ”Gireesh said. The situation is even more pathetic in the traditional fishing sector, which supports 10 lakhs of people. “We had received a bank loan of Rs 6 lakh to buy a motorized country boat worth Rs 12 lakh. We cannot venture into the sea due to lockdown restrictions.

The bank can seize property at any time, ”said Shaji, a fisherman in Arthungal in Alappuzha. “Fishermen from Arthungal have to go to Vypeen in Ernakulam to launch their boats because there is no port in Alappuzha. We hire trucks to take the craft to Vypeen, but the police stop us and issue a hefty fine citing the lockdown. The government has provided food kits, but are they enough to survive? We need money to cover our medical expenses, ”said Raju Asrayam, president of Alappuzha district of the Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation.

The biggest threat in the coastal hamlets is exploitation by loan sharks. Most fishermen have taken out loans from auctioneers who take part of the daily catch and charge exorbitant interest rates.

The fish processing and export sector has suffered huge losses due to the global foreclosure that has disrupted supply chains. “There is a sharp drop in the availability of fish as almost all ports are closed. The peeling units have been closed and the processing units are forced to store raw fish, ”said Alex K Ninan, Kerala region president of the Indian Association of Seafood Exporters. affected by the sharp increase in transport costs, which went from Rs 7.5 lakh per container to Rs 2.5 lakh in November 2020. As export turnover has fallen, the banks refuse to renew the credit facility, he said.

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