I’d like to highlight some of the reforms and welfare schemes introduced by our late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for fisheries / fishermen in Tamilnadu.
Tamilnadu & Fisheries
Tamilnadu has the second highest GDP among all the states in India after Maharashtra. GSDP is Gross State Domestic Product which takes all revenue from Agriculture, Automobiles, Manufacturing, Services, Animal Husbandry and lot more that contributes to our state’s economy.
Fisheries contribute significantly to TN’s economy (nearly 1%). Though it cannot match other behemoths such as Services, Agriculture & Manufacturing this sector is one of the oldest and offers employment to nearly 10 lakh people in the state. Our coastal districts (Chennai, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram,Tuticorin & Kanyakumari) contributed heavily in the fishing sector.
Tamilnadu has a coastal length of 1076 km (13% of the country’s coast line) which is second in India after Gujarat. With the present level of marine fish catch Tamilnadu ranks fourth at the all India level.
Let’s look at former Chief Minister Jayalalaithaa’s contribution towards fishing in Tamilnadu
Fishermen captured by SriLankan Navy
There has been a constant friction between the Sri Lankan navy and Indian fishermen. This still continues with Sri Lankan Navy capturing our fishermen on the case of moving into Sri Lankan waters. It’s still not clear if our fishermen literally cross Indian waters or Sri Lankan Navy is using brute force to scare fishermen to come closer to Katchatheevu. Anyways Katchatheevu is a political case and I’m not trying to focus this here.
Every time our fishermen get trapped in Sri Lankan jails our Chief Minister approaches the centre to secure their release. Increasing Coast Guards vigilance around these areas and movement of Navy boats to protect our fishermen are some of the measures taken.
Longline Tuna fishing is a scheme announced in 2014 which is designed to let fishermen move away from trawler fishing and move over to tuna longliner, thus keeping fishermen away and avoiding conflicts with the Sri Lankan navy.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa suggested that a move from bottom trawlers to deep sea tuna long liners would reduce the pressure on the practice of bottom-trawling in the Palk Bay region. Fishermen get subsidy of up to 50% from the State government to procure these boats and nets.
Longline Tuna fishing scheme
Longline fishing is a commercial fishing technique. It uses a long line called the main line, with baited hooks attached at intervals. A main line can have thousands of hooks and it can be thrown from a boat for a long distance and wait for the fish to come and get trapped. This helps fishermen not to venture too far into the seas thereby protecting them from being caught by Sri Lankan Navy.
Tuna (Soorai meen in Tamil) which is imported significantly adds to state’s revenue. Our age old “Maasi” is also prepared from Tuna.
Financial assistance during lean period of fishing
Every year during October to December fishermen abstain from fishing due to rough weather in the seas. Their daily wages hit badly due to this and they are unable to run their family. In 2011 Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced a financial grant to all fishermen during this lean period.
In 2016 the amount has been increased to Rs. 5000 a family. This amount is directly credited to their bank accounts. Around 1.7 lakh families are benefitted by this scheme.
Surveillance boats for search operations
In 2016 Chief Minister Jayalalithaa dedicated three surveillance boats purchased by the fisheries department to do sorties and search for fishermen who go missing while fishing in the coastal waters of Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts.
Subsidised Kerosene for boats
In 2012 government increased the quantity of subsidized Kerosene from 200 to 250 litres to all fishermen. Kerosene is generally used to propel motor boats used for fishing. The Government pays a subsidy of Rs. 25 per litre for country boats with external engines.
Release of Tamil fishermen trapped in Iran
In December 2015 44 fishermen from Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts, working for a private fishing company in United Arab Emirates (UAE) as contract labourers were arrested by Iran Coast Guard on charges of illegal fishing in the Iranian waters.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa coordinated with officials of the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi and those in Iran and UAE to secure the release. Discussions with Narendra Modi (Prime Minister) and Sushma Swaraj (External Affairs Minister) helped pave a way for the fishermen’s release. In March 2016 all 44 fishermen safely returned to India and were sent to their natives at State Government’s expense.
Chief Minister also granted Rs. 5 lakhs to each of the fishermen from Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund. She said “The assistance would help these fishermen in starting a new life”.
Rescue of Kanyakumari fishermen stranded in Odisha
In October 2013 18 fishermen from Kanyakumari went missing around the Odisha coast. This was the time when cyclone Phailin stuck the Odisha coast. The fishermen were feared missing after their two mechanised boats ran out of fuel.
Under the orders of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Tamil Nadu officials got in touch with their Odisha counterparts for rescuing the fishermen. They remained in constant touch with National Disaster Response Force personnel and the Coast Guard.
The fishermen slowly landed in one of the coast which was badly hit by the cyclone. They approached the Odisha government for help who in turn informed the Tamilnadu government. The Odisha government handed over those 18 fishermen to the Tamilnadu government officials. They returned back to Kanyakumari safely and continued their profession in a safe manner.