Friday 24 August 2018

Time for Three in Goa Fisheries Department to resign!

There has been huge awareness of threat to health caused by consumption of fish laced with Chemicals like Formalin in particular. This is an extremely good sign that fish consumers are awake and asking questions. However there is a disturbing trend too when it comes to issue of safety of fisheries as well as protection of fish habitats in Goa's waters. It is observed that consumers do not have adequate information and therefore concern on these issues to the extend needed. There is strategic disconnect between fishers and fish consumers. 

Bharat Mukti Morcha, Goa Unit currently also involved is defending fishing habitats in Zuari river in collaboration with local fishers for the past four years after invitation from fishing communities from Odxel, Cacra, Nauxim, Bambolim and Siridao with principle of Empathetic Engagement . Some of the major challenges that needs urgent public attention are listed below.

Illegal Trawling and illegal purse seine fishing deserves focus here. Fishers from the above listed villages on November 15, 2017 were promised 24 hour patrolling by the Goa Fisheries Minister Vinoda Palyenkar and Agriculture Minister Vijay Sardessai in presence of Talegao MLA Jenifer Montserrat at Goa Legislative Assembly. Assurance was also given to increase the fine for illegal fishing by trawlers and purse seine boats from Rs.100/- to Rs.50,000/-. However till date this assurance remains unfulfilled. 

In the meanwhile aggression on Zuari river is as intense as ever as evident from the community monitoring records maintained by the Siridao-Odxel coastal fishers. On 18/08/2018 there were 10 trawlers at 8.00 pm carrying on illegal fishing in Zuari. Three of them very close to Siridao Coast. On 23/08/2018 five trawlers carried on illegal fishing in Zuari river at 6.00 am. On 24/08/2018 around 40 mini purse seine boats carried on illegal fishing in Zuari river at 6.00 am and four trawlers carried on illegal fishing in Zuari river at 8.00 am.

It has been observed by fishing communities of this coast that when telephone calls are made to fisheries department no action is initiated. On the contrary mobile numbers with names of complaining fishers are shared with the offending trawlers and purse seine boat owners who in turn call up fishermen in Zuari who complain and threaten. Due to this flop show at Goa Fisheries Department control room and negligence in installing 24 hours patrolling of Zuari river there is likely situation of law and order problem. Coastal Police too has responsibility to stop illegal fishing but they too are relaxed about it for the reasons best known to them.

The consequence of this situation is severe. Goa's own marine biologist Aaron Lobo has scientifically demonstrated the huge damage that trawlers cause while fishing. He has compared it to the massive razing of forest on land above water. Because of this damage fishermen in Goa and other parts of India organised themselves and late Mathany Saldanha played pivotal role towards this. Purse seine nets catches tiny fish life and threat of fish depletion is severe. By law both trawling and purse seine nets are are banned within five kilometers from the shore.

Fishers in Fisheries department are well aware of the various problems faced by these coastal communities. In case any public member wants evidence then it can be procured by filing RTI application at Fisheries department seeking all the letters received from Bharat Mukti Morcha from 2014 to 2018.

The only serious officer of Goa administration who wanted to help these communities is Govind Jaiswal, IAS who was Secretary (Fisheries) as well as Director. Because of his helpful approach he has been replaced by new Secretary Daulat Hawaldar, IAS. (This decision is taken under pressure from corporate interests linked to waters sports after Jaiswal took up steps initiate study on effects of water sports on fishing and marine ecology). Looking at the daily violations in Zauri river it can be safely concluded that Mr. Halwaldar along with the Director V. Arlekar are incompetent, inefficient and irresponsible as fisheries administration in has witnessed colossal collapse. 

On August 14, 2018 these fishermen were called to the Fisheries Department for a meeting with Fisheries Minister Vinoda Palyenkar, Secretary (Fisheries) Daulat Hawladar, Director of Fisheries Vinesh Arlekar, Deputy Director Smita Muzumdar, Deputy Director C. Velip and Superintendent of Fisheries Chandresh. After listening to the problems expressed by fishers delegation led by Sanjay Pereira Secretary (Fisheries) Daulat Hawaldar assured to make a difference, a break from past. 

Alas! his promise now has proved to be an empty one. Minister of Fisheries Vinoda Palyenkar has lost his daring bearing that his has displayed at the start of his innings as minister and now is merely behaves as a caged rat of the illegal fishing mafia. His performance record that raised hope is turning into trigger of despair. We hardly need such behavior from a minister in Goa. He has facilitated diversion of Mhadei to vested interest in Karnataka in his capacity as Water Resources Minister by planned mismanagement at Mhadei Tribunal, and sold Zuari to illegal trawlers and illegal purse seiners. Situation in Zuari has degraded to the same level as during tenure of Dr. Shamila Monteiro who was removed from her post as director of fisheries. Now all the top leadership of Fisheries department must be thrown out. This includes Vinoda Palyenkar the Minister of Fisheries, Daulat Hawaldar, Secretary (Fisheries) and Director Vinesh Arlekar. All of them are proved irresponsible. Time for all three to resign and go as there is total collapse of administration on Zuari river.

Sebastiao Rodrigues

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