7, November 2008
NFF Delhi agitation concludes
Ministers assure fulfilment of NFF demands
The Delhi agitation of the traditional fishworkers, organised by National Fishworkers’ Forum, continued to gain support from Members of Parliament, social movements, activists and social and political groups. Eminent leaders including Shri. Surendra Mohan, Shri. Suresh Prabhu, MP, Shri. Ashok Chowdhary, Shri. Bhupendra Rawat, and others visited the Dharna and extended support to the NFF agitation.
Major Central Trade Unions of the country namely, AITUC, HMS and UTUC extended support to the fishworkers struggle and demands. Shri. Abani Roy, MP and Shri. R A Mital represented the Central Trade Unions and spoke at the Sit-in. South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Ganga Mukti Andolan, Matu Jan Sanghathan, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and Delhi Solidarity Group joined in the dharna in solidarity with the NFF agitation.
Apart from the Dharna at Jantar Mantar, there were continuous political parley and negotiations going on for the last four days. Shri. Oscar Fernandez, Union Minister for Labour and Employment visited the Dharna at Jantar Mantar on 6th November.
Later in the day, in a detailed discussion with a delegation of NFF in his office, the Union Labour Minister Mr. Oscar Fernandez assured that he will take up the following issues on a priority basis:
- Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification
- Supply of kerosene oil for fishing
- Release of Indian fishworkers from Pakistan and Sri Lankan jails
- Effective implementation of the farmer’s loan waiver to fishworkers and
- The issue of letter of permits (LoP) to joint venture vessels for deep-sea fishing
Mr. Oscar Fernandez also assured that the Labour Ministry is already working on the implementation of the ILO work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) and towards a national level legislation to extend the provisions of the Convention to the fishworkers in the country.
Displacement of traditional fishworkers from the Kutch region due to the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the Southern coast due to Special Tourism Zones (STZ), blanket ban on fishing sea cucumber, shark, etc and loss of livelihood in Gahir Matha (Orissa), Sunderbans (West Bengal), Gulf of Manar (Tamil Nadu), Malwan (Maharashtra), etc due to sanctuaries, national parks and marine protected areas – all figured prominently in the negotiations with the minister. The minister assured that he will raise the issues with the concerned ministries.
In the context of the discussions, the Labour Minister requested the fishworkers to go back to their regions and work. He requested the NFF leadership to keep a senior delegation in Delhi for a few days to follow-up with various ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ministry of Environment and Forest that has issued the Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) notification is directly under the charge of the Prime Minister.
The NFF leadership also met Shri. AK Anthony, the Union Cabinet Minister for Defence. Shri A.K. Anthony assured that he will look into the demands of the fishworkers and raise the issues at appropriate levels.
NFF delegation is scheduled to meet Union Minister for Agriculture, Shri. Sharad pawar on 8th November.
In the light of the above, National Fishworkers’ Forum with all its constituent members, decided to call-off the Delhi phase of the agitation in front of the Indian Parliament on 7th November 2008.
NFF calls upon the fishworkers of India and their supporters to keep the spirit of the agitation, preparedness for the struggle and a vigil on the developments regarding the assurances in the coming weeks. The next course of action and future strategies of the movement will be decided in the NFF National Conference in Ramnad, Tamil Nadu on the 13-16 December 2008.
Harekrishna Debnath ND Koli
Chairperson General Secretary
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