Srikakulam Fishermen In Troubled Waters

Traditional fishermen complain that private fishing companies are eating into their catch.  - Sakshi Post

By AS Joel Kumar

Deputy Bureau Chief

Sakshi TV

Fishermen can only catch fish. That is their livelihood for centuries. Braving all odds they should take their boats and fishing nets into the seas for fish either in the middle of the night or before the sunrise. Can you imagine a situation where there is shortage of fish for the fishermen to catch in water? If the fish caught by them does not fetch them good money what can be the condition of these fishermen? This is what is happening to some fishermen of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh.

At 35km from Srikakulam town along the Etcherla area, a fishermen village named Badavanipeta is located on the shores of the sea. In this village there are about 250 families. Men from these families get into business from midnight. Each boat carries 2-6 fishermen. By the time they finish their fishing work it will be noon. They return with their catch to the shores. Once the boats reach the shores, fishermen pull out their nets and take out fish.

"We generally get three to five varieties of fish. But fish which get us more money in market are scanty. Earlier it was the other way and we used to earn decent money. Now the situation is getting worse. This is due to the presence of big boats and steamers of private fishing companies. Another reason is that the quantity of fish in sea is also decreasing," says fisherman Kamaraju.

Once the fish is taken out from the nets, the women folk of the village gather near the fishmen to procure them. Women generally buy different kinds of fish worth Rs 700 to Rs 1500 daily. Later, they go to the nearby villages and sell them. If you think these women make good profit for their fishes, your are mistaken.

"People here do not buy fish on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In a week fish sales are good only four days in a week. We walk several kilometers and with great difficulty we sell them and some money", says Thavitamma, a fisherwomen while getting ready to sell them fish.

Most of the fish that fishmen get, will reach the market. But after fishermen take the fish to the market they

do not get the price they deserve. The middlemen at the market fix the price and fishermen have no other option to sell for the fixed price. "Sir with great difficulty we reach the market with our fish. For us returning without disposing the fish would be more disastrous. We are left with no other option but to sell their fish to the price fixed by the middlemen", says fishermen Kammaiah.

Fishermen go for fishing as long as they are healthy. But once their health condition is affected they cannot go for fishing. Mostly senior fishermen have this problem. If their children are not with them, only women go out to sell fish and earn for the family."Even I my old I cannot walk for long distance . Whatever little fish I can sell I will do it without fail. But I will not earn much. There is no other way for me to survive. If I go only me and my ailing husband will eat for that day", says fisherwomen Suramma.

In a fishing village, all men have to work very hard. The situation is the same even in families where children are educated. One such family is of former village sarpanch Appa Rao. He has three sons who are graduates. But his sons could not get any job and are forced to go for fishing daily. "Situation in this village will not improve until government takes developmental works in a planned way. We do not have a fishing harbour anywhere in Srikakulam coastline. Even government failed to provide cold storage facility for fishermen"says Appa Rao.

In Badavanipet village there are several youth who go for fishing on ordinary boats. In ordinary boats one cannot bring fish in large quantity. If one goes on motor boats fish can be captured in a big way. "This is possible if government provides a scheme where we can procure the motor boats. We cannot afford to buy those motor boats on our own. It is high time government help us in procuring these motor boats" says fishermen Harish Om.

In Badivanipeta , some fishmen received help from state government. They got large fishing nets under a government scheme. But fishermen are not that happy. "We have to use these large fishing nets only in motor boats. To run motor boats we have to spend lot of money on diesel. Government should also help in getting diesel on subsidy", says fishermen Thata Rao.

Fishmermen cannot be imagined without sea. They have to go for fishing despite all odds. In this race for survival some even lose their lives while trying to eek out a living. Fishermen who lose their lives while fishing are not getting a financial help from the government . "Two years back my father-in-law Satyam died while fishing . We contacted all the local leaders and concerned officials for help but in vain. The government till date did not pay any exgratia", says Poleramma, daughter-in-law of Satyam.

In Badivanipeta village fishermen are losing their livelihood gradually over the years due to less fish in sea. Over the years they started migrating to Gujarat state for livelihood. One such migrant is Korlaiah, who could earn a living and feed his family of five sisters. Finally 15 back he went to Gujarat and worked as a boat driver and hamali. Today he is incharge of a boat in Gujarat and gets a salary of Rs 16,000. He was in his native Badavanipeta village to celebrate Sanskranti.

"With lot of pain we are are forced to migrate to Gujarat. There are fishmen from Srikakulam who are working in Gujarat. If government provides us work in Srikakulam we will never go to Gujarat. We want be with our family members here in Badavanipeta village", says Korlaiah.

Fishermen who are all going to Gujarat are not like Korlaiah. Some of them are losing their lives also. "My father Chinna Rao was working on a boat in Gujarat. One day he fell ill there was no first aid in the boat and by the time he was brought to the shore, he breathed his last. The condition of fishermen on boats is not good" says son Pattabhi.

From Badivani peta village, fishermen who went to Gujarat and died never received any compensation from the local fishing companies. "Even the andhra government never tried to provide any economical assistance to our family", says Lakshmi, who lost her husband Yerikadu.

The state government established a upper primary school in Badavanipet. But the school lacks basic infrastruture. "Even teachers are not sufficient. There is no compound wall to the school. The building has also become old . The government is aware of the situation. But it is nice if it helps in providing basic facilities", says school head master Bhanu Murthy.

The local fishermen are losing livelihood in Badavanipeta village. They are forced to go to Gujarat to earn their livelihood. "It is time state government explore possibilites to provide alternate livelihood for fishermen" says fishermen Dass.

Seeing the pathetic condition of fishermen lives in Badavanipeta village, NGO named Helpling Hands came forward and donated some amount to the village with which some development works were taken up. It is time time government should think of extending the coastal corridor till Srikakulam. Everytime government talks about coastal corridor till Vishakpatnam. "Fishermen after getting fish have to spend money to travel to nearby highway route. If there is a coastal corridor coming till Srikakulam the local fishermen would be benefitted in a big way" says Etcherla mandal BJP president Narayana Raju.

Always central and state government give statements that they are doing lot of developmental works for fishermen. But in reality fishermen of all regions are not benefitted. It is time government take note of their problems and help them in the way their lives are uplifted.

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