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Kerala fishing community asks Centre to safeguard the interests of fishing sector

Prity Barman
Prity Barman
Fishing Sector

Considering the Indian Ports Act Bill 2020 in Parliament, the Kerala fishing community has urged the Centre to safeguard the interests of the fishing sector. 

The new Bill is intended to establish ports vis-a-vis foreign commerce and goods traffic. However, the community has requested a pivotal role in the Bill to ensure maximum utilisation of the coastal line in the region, in view of the considerable foreign exchange it earns the exchequer. 

The helping hand of TAMP 

The All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, submitting its comments on the draft bill, said that fisherfolk could take their complaints to the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) for a fair deal before the enactment of various port acts. For instance, in lowering jetty fees to a fair level where other departments declined to pass favorable orders, there were times when TAMP was helpful. 

However, Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal, general secretary of the Association, said that the new Act that is to be enforced soon is meant to hold TAMP away and the fishermen's complaints will be swept aside. In favor of the industry, the government should incorporate certain clauses in the proposed Act when implementing fees and penalties, he added. 

Since 1950, small jetties coming under the Cochin Port Trust have been used as seafaring, fish landing, and boat repair yards. These jetties were originally run free of charge with the help of local residents. A fee of Rs.100 was consequently charged annually by the port, which increased in 1998 to Rs. 1,200. The number was further increased to around 1,12,000 in 2013. While the sector could secure a temporary stay on the rise in fees from the Kerala High Court, such increases in jetty fees are a disincentive for fishermen to venture into the sea, he said. 

Those writing the Act may be unaware of the realities of the ground faced by the fishing industry, which provides 75,000 families with a livelihood. The Association looks forward to a systematic Act to promote the livelihood opportunities of the fishing community, he added, and urged the authorities to include agencies such as the TAMP in the Act to resolve the community's grievances. 

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