Uttan fishermen call out bias, demand equal compensation for loss during COVID-19 pandemic

Decrying bias in the special relief package recently announced by the state government, the fishing community from the coastal belt of Uttan, near Bhayandar, have demanded equal compensation for beneficiaries. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and sustained losses in fishing hours owing to a series of cyclones like Kyarr, Maha and Nisarg, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has announced a relief package for the fishing community in Maharashtra. The package includes a one-time help of Rs 10,000 each for traditional fishers who use drag nets, Rs 20,000 per low-end mechanised boats, Rs 30,000 each per boat which uses one or two cylinder engines and Rs 30, 000 for boats using high-powered six cylinder engines or more. This apart from a one-time grant of Rs 3,000 to help fish sellers procure ice boxes.

While the government claims to have extended a helping hand to the fishing community, which is facing challenges due to mounting losses, fishermen from the coastal belt of Uttan alleged partiality in compensation disbursal. “In accordance to the eligibility criteria, fishermen from Sindhudurg who single-handedly conduct fishing with the help of drag nets will get Rs 10, 000 each. At the same time, fishing boats powered by multi-engines with 15 to 18 fishermen on-board will get Rs 30, 000, which works out to around Rs 2, 000 per person. This is gross injustice, which smacks of step motherly treatment to fishermen of certain districts, including Thane and Palghar,” said Bernard D’mello of the Pali-Uttan Fishermen Co-operative Society. D’mello has dashed off letters to the Fisheries Department and Fisheries Minister Aslam Shaikh, seeking justice for the fishermen. The quaint fishing villages, including-Uttan, Pali and Chowk and Manori, is home to over 750 mechanized fishing boats in the region.

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