Former state labour minister Shibu Baby John attacked the Pinarayi Vijayan government over the condition of fisherfolk in Kerala. During the Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala’s satyagraha demanding the resignation of Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma, Shibu said that the state government has stopped various policies for the fisherfolk.
“The LDF government has done away with many policies intended to the fisherfolk. The government has stopped building houses for the fisherfolk, houses maintenance have also stopped and constructing toilets for the fisherfolk have also stopped. The current government has also stopped the previous UDF government’s Income Support Scheme where fisherfolk used to get a minimum income of Rs 1,350,” Shibu said.
Shibu also attacked the government over the EMCC deal stating that the fishing ordinance was brought to aid EMCC and not fishermen. He also attacked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that whenever the Opposition asks anything, the Kerala CM replies that he doesn’t know. “When the opposition leader asked the Chief Minister anything, he would reply “I don’t know”. The opposition leader asked about Sprinklr, Brewery scam, Swapna Suresh, M Sivasankar, he replied that he doesn’t know. This Chief Minister is an embarrassment to the state,” Shibu said.
Shibu also brought up the three ordinances introduced by the Kerala government last year. “The LDF government introduced three ordinances in the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation (KMFR) Act. The first one said that the fisherman must destroy their boat if it is eight-years-old and the metal boat must be destroyed in 15-years-old. This is the cruelty by the government,” he pointed out. The former Labour Minister alleged that the government brought this ordinance so that EMCC trawlers can make their way to Kerala.
Shibu also mentioned the 5% of the auction amount collected by the government as commission. “The ordinance said that out of the 5% paid by the fishing boats, 1% goes to the government, 1% goes to Panchayat or the Municipality, 1% will go the auctioneer, 1% will go to the harbour management committee and 1% will go to groups who used to get 5%. This is the government's way of collecting tax from poor fishermen,” Shibu said. According to Section 4 (5) of the ordinance, “The government can collect an amount not above 5% of the auction amount as commission. This amount will be divided among the auctioneer, Fishermen Cooperative Society, local self-government, fish landing centre, harbour management society, fish market management society and the government.” Shibu also said that fishermen who are going into the sea day and night must take two certificates. “Fishermen who go to catch fish day and night and return to the shore, they must collect two certificates from the fisheries officer,” he said. “First is the catch certificate where the fisherman must give details of his catch like where he caught the fish and how much he caught. Second is the quality assurance certificate, where the fisherman must be present before the fisheries officer in a fixed time and give assurance to that the catch is of good quality and no tampering was done.”
Shibu slammed the government saying such ordinances is causing great problems for fishermen. “The fisherman returns after his morning catch and will need to rest before heading into the sea in the evening. But with such an ordinance, he will have to go and convince the fisheries officer that the catch is good. These laws are absurd,” he said.
The labour minister pointed out that if the fisherman makes a mistake, under these laws the fisherfolk will suffer greatly. “If the fisherman makes a mistake for the first time, he would be in prison for one month and Rs 1 lakh fine. If the mistake is committed a second time, he would be in prison for three months and Rs 2 lakh fine. If he repeats, the fisherman would be in prison for six months and Rs 3 lakh fine. Which poor man can pay Rs 3 lakh as fine,” he asked.
Shibu alleged that according to the Fisheries Minister, the fisherman cannot file for an appeal until he pays up the fine. “If the fisheries officer makes a mistake and gives punishment to the fisherman. Mercykutty has written that unless the penalty decided by the fisheries officer is paid, the fisherman cannot file an appeal,” he alleged. He also alleged that if the fisheries officer makes a mistake, no action would be taken against the officer under any law.