NewsClick | 8 May 2022
Fisherfolk face eviction threats in West Bengal, says AIFFWF
by Sandip Chakraborty
Kolkata: Inland water and marine fisherfolk working in the coastal areas of West Bengal are facing eviction threats due to the "detrimental policies" of the central and state governments, observed the recently concluded conference of the All India Fishers and Fisheries Workers’ Federation’s (AIFFWF) state unit.
It also stated that the "hooligans" of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) are taking over the cooperatives of the fisherfolk allegedly by force and inviting big companies to fish in the inland water bodies. As a result, the livelihood of the 13.65 lakh-strong fisherfolk community in the state has been endangered.
The AIFFWF, in its organisational report, also highlighted the eviction of 2,250 families of fisherfolk, involved in small-scale fishing, from a lake spread over 10,187 acres. The report also talked about TMC "hooligans" forcibly taking over cooperatives such as Choto Paresh and Boro Paresh of the Bidhannagar area.
Cooperatives of fisherfolk that were formed when the left front was governing the state, have been shut by the TMC with the help of policies of the state government, the report said.
A total of 1,271 such fisherfolk cooperatives, 200 communes, 3,600 hilly streams fisherfolk units, 131 marine fisherfolk communities, 41 salt fisheries units, and fisherman communities living in north Bengal’s Kajipara lake, Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, and Cooch Behar have been evicted from their workplaces, it stated.
More than 600 fisherfolk cooperatives have become redundant and stopped working as a result of this and also due to the detrimental law and order situation in the state, as per the AIFFWF.
“The Centre is harming the ecology of the Sundarbans and hampering fishing in the area by allowing passage to ships. Blue Revolution is meant for big corporate entities. We will not benefit from it,” said Debasish Barman of the Hingalgunj Fisherman Community and secretary of the West Bengal unit of the AIFFWF while speaking to NewsClick on the sidelines of the conference.
“The size of the trawlers fixed by the Central government is meant for big companies. Besides, small-scale fishers cannot bear the huge cost of increasing the size of the present trawlers to 20 feet," he added.
Barman added that restricting small-scale fishers to 10 nautical miles down from 200 nautical miles is also hampering fishing in the country.
The conference also discussed the issue of big Indonesian trawlers allowed to fish in Indian waters under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement using modern solar searchlights to locate and net huge amounts of fish.
A total of 167 delegates from across the state deliberated on organisational matters and problems faced by the fisherfolk in the state.
Before 2011, West Bengal used to be a topper among the states for fish production, but now it is producing only 4,857 tonnes daily, though the daily requirement of the state is 4,940 tonnes, said the report. To fulfil the demand, fish is being imported from Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh. In 2005, an attempt was made by the Left front government to start big carp fish cultivation in Nayachar and Captain Bheri region, but it has been “looted” in the subsequent years, as per the report.
Along with this, the Centre’s ‘Blue Revolution’ project is also hampering both inland and marine fishers in the state, AIFFWF said during the conference. Blue Revolution focuses mainly on increasing fish production and productivity from aquaculture and fisheries resources – both inland and marine. There are about 3 lakh fisherfolk in the Sundarbans and another 1.5 million residents who are dependent on fishing for a livelihood.
The conference was inaugurated by AIKS secretary of the West Bengal unit, Amal Haldar. In his speech, Haldar appealed to the people to stand up to and protest against the designs of the central and state governments, who “want to take over the rights of pisciculturalists on water”. Echoing his view, Tushar Ghosh, all-India president of the AIFFWF, emphasised the importance of resistance.
A number of proposals were presented during the conference for attendees’ consideration: against imperialist aggression, against constant inflation, for building a strong movement of pisciculturalists in the country, for protection of Sundarbans and adequate relief measures in the cyclone-prone areas, against communalism, for a heightened campaign against global warming, and against filling up of inland water bodies.