Fisherman hit by ban not receiving PDS rations

Kendrapara: Over 5000 fishermen families targeted for PDS cover to make up for the loss of livelihood during the ban on fishing for the breeding of turtles has been a non-starter in Kendrapara district. The PDS ration was expected to reach the targeted families by mid-July, but the scheme has hit a roadblock.

Aware of the loss of livelihood following the seven-month prohibition fromNovember 1 to May 31 on fishing in the sea, the government had earlier announced extension of PDS facilities for the affected fishermen families.

“We have identified more than 5,400 families who are entirely dependent on fishing. The identified families are either directly or indirectly affected by turtle conservation measures have been enumerated for PDS benefits,” assistant director of marine fisheries, Paradip, Rabi Narayan Pattnaik said.

The department has submitted a list to government agencies so that the affected people could avail of the subsistence package and alternate livelihood programme, he said.

“PDS benefits are yet to reach the targeted families, but we are hopeful the scheme will get underway shortly. The affected families are entitled to all PDS benefits including rice at Rs 2 a kg,” he said.

After prohibition was lifted on May 31, fishing is being disrupted due to frequent formation of low pressure. Rough sea has prevented fishing for fortnight-long spells in the past three months. Adding to their woes is dispute between exporters and trawler operators.

“We are pinning hopes that subsidized PDS rice would provide relief during the lean season. We are feeling let down. The government should take the fishermen’s livelihood issues more seriously,” said Adikanda Roul, a fisherman.

It’s pertinent to note that every year, the state government clamps a 7-month ban on fishing in a 20 km radius from Dhamara to the mouth of the Devi river. In accordance with the Odisha Marine Fisheries Regulatory Act, 1983, the prohibitory orders on fishing remains effective from November 1 to May 31. The legal embargo is to ensure the safety of breeding turtles who perish in large number either by getting entangled in fishing nets or by getting hit by propellers of trawlers.

The prohibition in past years has resulted in a drastic drop in marine fish production and in economy of the region which is largely regulated by the sea fishing sector, said Tushar Sardar, the district wing president of Orissa Traditional Fish Workers Association.

Ancilliary sectors like ice-factories and net-making units in areas like Dhamra, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Ramnagar, Sandhakuda, Ambiki, Erasama and Paradipgada have closed down. Skilled boat-makers and net weavers from these areas are slowly shifting towards Digha and Vishakhapatnam due to bleak business prospects, he claimed.