Demonic effects of demonetization on our fishermen

Two months back the name “Demonetisation” sounded Greek & Latin to us. Now entire India is aware of this term, thanks to Central government’s decision on scrapping out 500 & 1000 rupees note. Nation saw a lot of debate and discussion around this issue. Why not, after all it was these 2 pieces of paper which decided everyone’s day to day life. With a population of 129 crores this decision was not like others affecting our daily lives.

Government considered themselves as God who can unleash the flood and save Noah and his family alone. Government should not be equated to God; they can’t impose restrictions on using our hard earned money. I’m not writing an article to highlight against demonetisation. My intention is to bring to your notice about our fishermen’s plight because of this demonetisation move across our coasts. Farmers, labourers, weavers, small time businessmen everyone had a big hit due to this move. Fishermen were not left behind in this issue as if their woes were not enough already.

We all crib about standing in lines outside ATM or banks to encash or exchange. Think about our Paravar fishermen whose livelihood depends on fishing on a daily basis. How would they procure diesel for their boats, what would they pay for daily wages? Even if they got a good catch who would buy their fish when the old 500 & 1000 rupees notes became invalid and the new currency is out of reach? Sea foods are perishable goods and they can’t wait until new currency is floated across the country. There needs to be a mechanism with which people can buy & sell these items. No politician or celebrity faced problems with food and they don’t seem to understand what was going through these fishermen.

Let’s look at some of the major problems faced by our fishermen along our coastline starting from Rameswaram till Kanyakumari:

  • Unable to purchase diesel for the boats. A typical case wherein fishermen are unable to get diesel for their boats because petrol bunks are not accepting old currencies.
  • Rameswaram amounts to 4 cr loss per day because fishermen are on strike. If fishermen do not venture out for fishing what will happen to their livelihood?
  • Inability to pay wages to the daily labourers assisting in fishing. Even if they could arrange for diesel, manpower is very limited because owners can’t pay them as they do not have the new currencies.
  • Ice blocks used to store huge amount of fishes are not being sold due to currency ban. If fishermen are unable to procure ice for storage then the big catch goes into drain. Horrible isn’t it?
  • Most fishermen do not have bank accounts. How does government want them to transact through banks?
  • New banknotes came to Nationalised and Private Banks not to the cooperative banks. Paravar villages have many cooperative banks wherein our fishermen hold accounts. Cooperative banks were not given the new currency notes, making it impossible for fishermen’s to acquire new currency.
  • Forget cash, use MasterCard or VISA. Our fishermen brothers from Rameswaram till Kanyakumari cannot use credit / debit cards because they don’t have one. Is the government kidding?
  • People in Chennai stood for long hours in ATM / banks despite having good internet connectivity and availability of credit / debit cards and mobile payment options. What about villages such as Alanthalai, Uvari etc. where there is no reach for these luxury items?
  • It took more than 2 weeks for the new 500 rupees note to reach Chennai. Just think of the situation in our coastal villages..
  • One of the worst situations is when our fishermen were paid with 2000 rupees for a catch of 500 rupees and they never had the balance to return because they did not have 100 rupees notes. The catch went in vain as the people were not ready to shell out money without getting the balance in change.

Nearly 40 years back a demonetisation happened in 1978 which was considered to be a failure. With population doubling today and 500 & 1000 Rs notes becoming 86% of floating cash in India, government has decided to play with the common man. Analysts say that it will take a long time for India to come out of this present crisis, not the 50 days during which government promises to change India.

Central / State government should take steps to address the plights of common man. Fishing acts as a major driver of Tamilnadu’s economy. Inability to address the currency ban issue immediately will mean that the state’s economy will take a big hit which in turn hits India’s economy.

God bless India !!

By Anton Niresh

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