Rameswaram: Opposing the National Fisheries Policy - 2020, fishermen representing various workers’ unions including the CITU, hoisted black flags on their anchored boats and staged demonstrations in Rameswaram on Friday (July 24).

Participating in the nationwide call for a strike, the fishermen said that the policy was neither friendly to them nor did it protect their interests. It was aimed at enhancing the profits of certain corporate houses, as the policy was highly export-oriented and curtailed the movement of fishermen to deep sea fishing, Sesu Raja, a fishermen association leader said.

The policy would only lead to insecurity and uncertainty for the fishermen. Already, under the guise of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), the fishermen were harassed and attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel. The policy encouraged deep sea fishing, which would not be feasible, the leader charged.

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that a majority of the fishermen had lost their livelihoods in the last 120 days. At a time when the fishing industry looked to the governments for relief, such policies only triggered them to take extreme steps, he claimed.

In Pamban, country boat fishermen association leader Rayappan said that the state government should voice its opposition on behalf of fishermen and ensure that the Centre withdrew the policy. “The policy should at least be amended in such a way that it is friendly to the fishing community, as there are different classes in the sector,” he said.

Expressing their concern, over 1,600 anchored boats including country and mechanised boats raised black flags. The fishermen said that the protests would be intensified in the days to come, if the governments failed to take notice of their appeals.

Already, some of the fishermen associations have not been venturing into the sea since last week, blaming the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department for not issuing subsidies for diesel.

The government, which had permitted the fishermen to venture into the sea from June 1 after the COVID-19 lockdown and the annual ban period, the fishermen in Rameswaram set off for fishing only from June 13. However, within two days, four fishermen went missing and three among them had died mid sea.

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