As many as 119 fishermen from Andhra Pradesh who worked as khalasis (helpers) on fishing boats in the coastal areas of Uttan near Bhayandar have been stranded since the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Their frantic save-our-souls (SOS) appeal has attracted the attention of a former legislator from Andhra Pradesh, who has highlighted their plight and sought help from the local authorities for transport facilities to bring back the stranded fishermen safely to the state.
“Many helpers have continued to accompany fishermen on their journeys. However, villagers are taking care of them. I myself have submitted online applications for around 87 migrants from Andhra, seeking travel permission on their behalf,” said fishing community leader Bernard D’mello. Most of these fishermen have taken refuge in the Pali Bunder area. “I am in consultation with my higher-ups to chalk out a way for their safe, homeward journey.” said Assistant Police Inspector Satish Nikam.
The fishing villages of Uttan, Pali, Dongri, Bhatte Bunder and Chowk house around 750 fishing boats in the region and provide employment to more than 2,400 migrants from various states, especially Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha. Although there are no restrictions on venturing into the sea, fishing activity has slowed down in this coastal belt near Bhayandar, due to logistics and vending issues which have cropped up owing to the lockdown. Last week, the Andhra government had brought back more than 4,000 of its fishermen stranded at Veraval port in Gujarat. Public transport buses were pressed into service to ferry the fishermen.