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Brokering Peace and Sovereignty:

At the Cusp of Identity, Borders and Religion in the Middle East

International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

Bound by the historical injustices and the artificial boundaries created by the imperialist project in the Middle East several flashpoints for conflict exist today with reverberations all across the world. We present to you today the story of borders, identity and the religion and complex history of conflict and peace in two such regions of Middle East: Palestine-Israel and Kurdistan.

Speakers Include:

Alan Hart (Journalist and international peace activist) talks about his new book and traces the roots of Zionism and the conflict between Israel and Palestine and explores the difference between Judaism and Zionism and argues that modern Israel is a Zionist state, not a Jewish state.

Nilufer Koc and Adem Uzun (member, Kurdistan National Congress) narrate the story of 40 millions of Kurds spread across four countries (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) living under seize and repression and as refugees all over the world. Determined to seek justice and support and autonomy for their people they argue for peaceful coexistence of all nationalities in the region.

Date: Friday, November 21 2008, 3:00 – 6:00 pm

Venue: India Social Institute, Lodi Road, New Delhi 110003

For more details contact:

Madhuresh (011-41551521) / Bijulaal (9968161012)

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Union Agriculture Minister meets NFF delegation

Agrees to implement several demands

Union Agriculture Minister Shri Sharad Pawar received a delegation of senior leaders of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), today, for discussion on various issues related to fisheries and fishworkers. The delegation handed over a Charter of Demands to the Minister and sought immediate intervention of the Ministry into the matters raised therein.

After in-depth discussion on the demands, in a major victory for the fishworkers, Shri Sharad Pawar assured positive action on the following issues on a priority basis:

  1. The Ministry of Agriculture will ensure adequate supply of kerosene oil at PDS rates for the purpose of fishing. The Ministry will share the expenses incurred on this account.

  2. The Ministry will take up the issue of debt waiver for the fishers with concerned authorities to sort out technicalities of the matter so that indebted fishers are not deprived of the benefit of the debt waiver. [Presently, fishworkers are indebted to their co-operative societies and are defaulters. However, since many of these fishworkers’ co-operative societies have repaid their loans to their principal lenders, the individual fishworker’s debt is not reflected. This is the reason why they are technically not treated as eligible for debt waver.]

  3. The Ministry will take up the issue of exorbitant custom duties, Cess, VAT etc. presently charged on out-board motors (Currently charged @ 28%) and would ensure that taxation on such motors and spare parts are at par with the agricultural machinery inputs (tractors, pumps, spare parts, etc.) @ 4%.

  4. The Minister agreed to pursue the demand for exemption of road cess – currently charged at the rate of Rs.1.50 per litre – on the diesel used for fishing.

  5. The Minister shared the agony of the fishing community caused by the draft Coastal Management Zone Notification (CMZ) issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He also expressed his concern over the loss of livelihood of traditional fishers due to imposition of various bans and restrictions on fishing. He has taken the initiative to hold a joint meeting of the Minister of State for MoEF, the NFF delegation and himself on 10th November – to discuss these contentious issues.

  6. The NFF delegation is informed that the Ministry of Agriculture is working for a comprehensive fisheries legislation for the EEZ. MoA also had inter-ministerial meetings with the Ministry of Labour on ILO convention on work in fishing. Both the matters are being pursued.

The Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture has provided NFF and the millions of fishworkers across the country reasons to celebrate. However, NFF will continue to pursue the key issue of withdrawal of CMZ Notification with all the concerned ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Harekrishna Debnath                                                      ND Koli

Chairperson                                                                    General Secretary

Contacts: 09434039599 / 9868066195 / 26680914

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Photographs of NFF Delhi Agitation

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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

For high resolution images and further details

Contacts: 09434039599 / 9868066195 / 26680914

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PRESS RELEASE                                                        6 November 2008

India to Ratify ILO Convention 188′: Minister for Labour’

NFF Welcomes the Decision

Marking a major victory for the long struggle of fish workers across the country, and a huge shift from its earlier position, Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Oscar Fernandez has declared that India agreed to ratify the ILO Convention 188 – Work in Fishing Convention, 2007. He has made this declaration today (Nov 6) at the sit-in of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) in Delhi.

The Minister promised a comprehensive national level legislation incorporating the provisions and extending the scope of the Convention to cover all the fish workers in the country. Reiterating his commitment for its implementation, he has agreed to meet a delegation of NFF soon to discuss the details.

NFF welcomes this decision and appreciate the government for making this happen. “A genuine effort for the speedy implementation of the provisions in the Convention is what is urgently needed,” Harekrishna Debanath, Chairperson of NFF said.

The sit-in, entering the third day, is getting support from different quarters. Organisations associated with National Alliance of People’s Movements and Delhi Solidarity Group has visited the sit-in and has extended their support. Members of Parliament and other dignitaries have visited the sit-in. A NFF delegation would meet Minister for Defence Mr. A. K. Antony later this evening.

Summing up the determination of the fish workers, senior NFF activist and leader of Kerala Fishworkers, T Peter said, “We will not leave the sea and the coast for the sand-mining, tourism and industry lobby and will confront them every inch to reclaim them. If the government fails to take appropriate actions, they will face the consequences in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.”

The sit-in demands:

  • Withdraw the draft Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification and implement Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 1991
  • Stop privatization of marine and inland water bodies and the coastal zone – enact appropriate legislation to protect traditional fisher peoples’ preferential access and inalienable customary rights to coastal and marine resources
  • Enact comprehensive fisheries legislation for the EEZ
  • Cancel all letters of permit (LoP) given to foreign vessels for fishing in our waters
  • Stop import of fish that threatens the livelihood of fisher people
  • Lift ban on small-scale fishermen using sustainable gears and protect traditional livelihood
  • Provide livelihood assistance on Kerosene and diesel for sustainable fishing
  • Enact National Law to extend benefits of ILO convention to all fish workers
  • Enact and implement the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Bill
  • GoI to secure release of Indian fishermen and fishing boats captured by Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  • Waive debts of fisher people along with the farmers

Background

More than five hundred fishworkers from all the coastal states of India are part of this agitation in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, demanding protection of the coast and their traditional rights.

The Indian coasts, its traditional people and the coastal ecosystem are facing a crisis like never before. The traditional protectors of the sea and the coast, the fishworkers, are being thrown out of their habitats. The sea and the coastal areas are being pledged to vested interests and commercial establishments including foreign and domestic companies. Existing protection mechanisms like Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ, since 1991) are being violated and sabotaged to cater to the interest of hoteliers and industrial units. To further damage this fragile situation, the Government of India is bring in a new notification titled ‘Coastal Management Zone’ (CMZ), in line with the Swaminathan Committee Recommendations. The draft CMZ Notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is all set to bulldoze traditional and customary rights of the fishing community over the coastal zone. If implemented, the CMZ will disrupt the lives and livelihood of 3202 fishing villages across the 8000 km long coastline of India.

Fisher people conducted a national campaign titled Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan along the coastline of the country from Jakhau, Gujarat to Kolkata, West Bengal from 1st May 2008 under the aegis of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF). As a culmination of the national campaign, more than five hundred fishermen and women from the coastal states have reached Delhi on 3rd November 2008 to put pressure on Government of India, with their Charter of Demands.  Several agitation programmes side by side with a mass dharna at Jantar Mantar will take place from 4th to 7th November 2008 including a public meeting at the Constitution Club on 5th November afternoon are being planned by NFF.


Vasundhara Jairath       Pallavi Mansingh     Jibin Robin       Bipin Rai

In support of NFF agitation in Delhi – Delhi Solidarity Group.

For high resolution images and more details:

Contacts: 9868165471 / 9868066195 / 26680914

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Press Release                                                           5, November 2008

Fishworkers demand withdrawal of CMZ Notification

Land is ours, Sea is ours and the right to access is ours! We declare that this is what we will give to our next generation.”

—— Freesca, Fishworker from Trivandrum, Kerala

Condemning the MoEF and the UPA government for trying to push through the draft Costal Management Zone Notification (CMZ), the Fishworkers demanded its withdrawal and implementation of the earlier CRZ notification at the National Meeting of Fishworkers held on November 5, 2008 at the Constitution Club, New Delhi. Speakers included Abani Roy (MP Rajya Sabha), Surendra Mohan (Senior Political Leader and ex-MP), R.A. Mital (National Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha), Manju Menon (Kalpavriksh, an environmental organisation), Ingrid Christensen (Senior Specialist on Occupational Health and Safety, ILO), J John (Centre for Education and Communication – a labour support organisation), Harekrishna Debnath, Chairperson (National Fishworkers Forum) and other fishworkers leaders from various Parts of India.

Speaking in the meeting, Abani Roy slammed the UPA Government for betraying the workers and especially the fishworkers whose coast is now being snatched from them. He said that the struggle of fishworkers must go on and the trade unions will always support the struggle of fishworkers. R.A. Mital pointed out that an ILO convention on Work in Fishing is not enough. It is essential to have in place a national legislation to extend the benefits of the convention to all the fishworkers. He also stressed that it is important to understand how can fishers access the benefits of social security, particularly in the context of the proposed unorganised sector social security bill all set to become a law. Ingrid Christensen noted that the ILO convention on Work in fishing sector aims to promote and realise standards and fundamental principles and rights at work. J. John stressed on the need for social security of the unorganised sector workers, in the larger context of increasing gulf between the rich and the poor due to globalisation. Surendra Mohan said that the government has hardly given any benefits to fishworkers and is further tying to take away their access to livelihood. Manju Menon reminded the MoEF that the CMZ notification has far reaching implications on livelihood of traditional fishers. There are issues related to its implementation which are impossible to resolve. It cannot be corrected and has to be totally rejected.

The meeting was held by NFF with support from Centre for Education and Communication and Delhi Solidarity Group. It was held as part of the Fisherpeoples’ Action in Delhi which marks the culmination of the Machimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan.

NFF demands to Government include:

  • Withdraw the draft Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification and implement Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 1991
  • Stop privatization of marine and inland water bodies and the coastal zone – enact appropriate legislation to protect traditional fisher peoples’ preferential access and inalienable customary rights to coastal and marine resources
  • Enact comprehensive fisheries legislation for the EEZ
  • Cancel all letters of permit (LoP) given to foreign vessels for fishing in our waters
  • Stop import of fish that threatens the livelihood of fisher people
  • Lift ban on small-scale fishermen using sustainable gears and protect traditional livelihood
  • Provide livelihood assistance on Kerosene and diesel for sustainable fishing
  • Enact National Law to extend benefits of ILO convention to all fish workers
  • Enact and implement the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Bill
  • GoI to secure release of Indian fishermen and fishing boats captured by Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  • Waive debts of fisher people along with the farmers


More than five hundred fishworkers from all the coastal states of India are part of this agitation in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, demanding protection of the coast and their traditional rights

Background

The Indian coasts, its traditional people and the coastal ecosystem are facing a crisis like never before. The traditional protectors of the sea and the coast, the fishworkers, are being thrown out of their habitats. The sea and the coastal areas are being pledged to vested interests and commercial establishments including foreign and domestic companies. Existing protection mechanisms like Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ, since 1991) are being violated and sabotaged to cater to the interest of hoteliers and industrial units. To further damage this fragile situation, the Government of India is bring in a new notification titled ‘Coastal Management Zone’ (CMZ), in line with the Swaminathan Committee Recommendations. The draft CMZ Notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is all set to bulldoze traditional and customary rights of the fishing community over the coastal zone. If implemented, the CMZ will disrupt the lives and livelihood of 3202 fishing villages across the 8000 km long coastline of India.

Fisher people conducted a national campaign titled Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan along the coastline of    the country from Jakhau, Gujarat to Kolkata, West Bengal from 1st May 2008 under the aegis of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF). As a culmination of the national campaign, more than five hundred fishermen and women from the coastal states have reached Delhi on 3rd November 2008 to put pressure on Government of India, with their Charter of Demands. Several agitation programmes side by side with a mass dharna at Jantar Mantar will take place from 4th to 7th November 2008 including a public meeting at the Constitution Club on 5th November afternoon are being planned by NFF.


Vasundhara Jairath        Pallavi Mansingh         Jibin Robin        Bipin Rai

In support of NFF agitation in Delhi – Delhi Solidarity Group. Contacts: 9868165471 / 9868066195 / 26680914

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