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NFF Demands separate Ministry for Fisheries at the Centre: 

Delegation meets ministers to demand stopping of anti-fisherpeople projects including Kudankulam Nuke project and the pipeline project in Kerala

New Delhi 17th Dec 2011: A delegation of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) and support groups in Delhi met with the union ministers at the centre and demanded that a separate central ministry for fisheries be immediately formalized by the UPA Government. Speaking to media persons after the meetings, Shri T. Peter, Secretary, NFF reminded the UPA that this was going to be the most contentious issue since Congress and other UPA partners have often supported this demand of fishworkers, without any concrete action being taken to materialize the same. “we demand establishment of a separate Fisheries Ministry in the Government of India as this sector involves more than 25 million people, vitally contributes to the food security of the country and is still neglected”, added Mr. Peter.

The delegation comprised of leaders of NFF, along with Vijayan MJ of Delhi Forum, Madhuresh Kumar of National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM), Ashok Choudhary of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) and Amar of National Hawkers’ Federation (NHF), met with Prof. KV Thomas (In-charge, Minister of state, Ministry of Agriculture), Mr. KC Venugopal (Minister of State, Ministry of Power) and submitted memorandums to Shri. AK Anthony (Defence Minister), Shri. Sharad Pawar (Agricultural Minister) and the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The delegation met with the Power Minister Shri Venugopal to demand that the coastal gas pipeline project in Kerala – from Kochi LNG Terminal to Kayamkulam Thermal Power Plant, be scrapped by the Centre. The delegation briefed the Minister about the threat posed by such a project, since it destroys the sea, the coast and the livelihood of many fishworkers in Kerala’s coast. The Minister assured the delegation that the government will not take any decision that will negatively impact the lives of the fisherpeople of Kerala.

The other demands made by the delegation included:

  1.  Stop Free Trade Agreements and Foreign Direct Investment in retail trade in the Fisheries Sector and that the Fishworkers must be consulted before entering into any trade agreement involving the Fisheries Sector.
  2.  Stop the building of Nuclear Power Plants at Kudankulam, Gorakhpur and Jaitapur.
  3. Stop setting up of thermal power plants with captive ports on the coast and also setting up of new private ports.
  4. Object the imposition of Marine Protected Areas with blanket ban on fishing at Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, Malvan in Maharashtra, Gulf of Munnar in Tamil Nadu, Gahirmata and Bhitarkanika in Orissa and Sundarban Tiger Reserve in West Bengal; and demand consultation with and participation of the coastal fishworkers in the proposition and management of ecologically sensitive coastal areas.
  5. A comprehensive legislation to rationalize the fisheries sector with reference to fishing vessels, gears, efforts and fish resources ensuring preferential access of small and traditional fishers to the stock of fish in Indian waters.
  6. Ban on Bottom Trawling and Purse-Seining in the territorial waters. In Maharashtra and Gujarat Bottom Trawling and Purse-Seining should be prohibited even   well beyond the territorial waters, where traditional fishing takes place on large scale.
  7. Ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No.188 for Work in Fishing for all coastal fishworkers of the country.
  8. Immediate implementation of Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 with reference to all fishworkers of the country.
  9. Implementation of remaining 40 recommendations of Mandal Commission for Other Backward Classes (OBC).
  10. Implementation of reserved electoral constituencies for coastal fisherpeople as recommended by the Mandal Commission

NFF leaders and support groups were in the city to join the Parliament Rally on the 15thDecember and to also participate in the founding conference of the ‘National Federation of Traditional Workers’, a national coalition force of natural resource based traditional community organisations and working people. The Conference was held at Mavlankar Hall on the 16th of December 2011.

Matanhy Saldanah         Rambhau Patil

Chairperson                            General Secretary

 

Contact for details: 09868165471

 peter.ksmtf@gmail.com,

vijayanmj@delhiforum.net

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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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Press Release                                                          4, November 2008

Save the Coasts; Save the Sea; Save the Fishworkers

National Fishworkers’ Forum demands scrapping of Coastal Management Zone (CMZ)

NFF and its allied state level Fishworkers Trade Unions have started a four day agitation in Delhi on 4th November 2008. The Dharna; Delhi Chalo agitation’s final phase was inaugurated by the Chairperson of NFF, Shri. Harekrishna Debnath, in the presence of former Union Minister for Environment and Forest, Shri. Suresh Prabhu, MP and several other leaders of NFF.

Shri. Harekrishna demanded the UPA government to immediately withdraw the CMZ Notification and to implement the CRZ Notification of 1991 or face the wrath of a million fishworkers, spreading across all the coastal states. Speaking on the inaugural function, Shri. Suresh Prabhu reminded the UPA Government that the campaign for waiver of farmer’s debt included that of the traditional fishworkers and hence demanded a waiver of loans of fishworkers, who are in deep debt and crisis.

NFF demand to GoI 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.

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

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