Sailing through rough times3 min read
Malpe: He took to repairing; repainting every nook and corner of it himself when Laxman’s 20 years of small scale fishing fetched him enough money to buy a second hand boat. The boat that was pampered like a kid by its master now stands gloomy with over thousands of its allies tied up at the Malpe Harbour, while Laxman slowly checks the fishing gear on his unusually empty boat, waiting to make up for the lost time.
The annual deep-sea fishing ban that kept multitude of other fishermen like him away from entering the sea for over 57 days would finally come to an end on August 10. The ban, which was officially imposed here in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi on June 15, allowed only smaller boats with an engine of less than 10 horsepower to fish within a boundary of less than 20 km.
The government compensation though is insufficient to support them through the off season, but has, over the years, brought the fishermen to build an unacknowledged support system for themselves. Laxman explains that apart from the smaller kerosene-run boats that are allowed to fish traditionally, two or three people generally rent a boat and split the final profits between themselves and the owner. “Anyone can come here and take the boat; if they get profit, they rest and the money is divided. Sometimes they come back with nothing, sometimes they get three tons of fish,” he says. The unpredictable weather does little to make their condition easier. “We have to be lucky; right now fishing is like gambling. We go everyday but we won’t always find fish,” he adds.
Having been teased by this hitch year after year, most fishermen make special arrangements to sustain their livelihood and business. Some set aside certain amounts of money they receive during the other months in order to repair their boats, fix their nets and strengthen their ropes. Those with smaller boats also take up net making for the owners of the bigger boats. Some take up a temporary clerical job while others turn to manual labour. The government assistance towards traditional fishermen falls short to meet their demands. Speaking of which, Savitha Khadri, Assistant Director of Fisheries informs, “Those who are members of the Fishermen Corporation societies receive Rs.1800 in three instalments from the Centre and the State. Also, under the Zila Panchayat scheme, Rs. 1 lakh insurance is provided by the Centre and Rs. 80,000 by the State to every deceased fisherman.”
The number of accidents involving violators of the ban has reduced significantly over the years, claims Uday Kanchan, Branch Manager, District Cooperative Fish Marketing Federation. “Even now when they get smaller fish, they come back. And depending on how often they do get fish, they go.” He further adds that seasoned fishermen are not just careful but also rely on the instincts they’ve built over years of experience out in the sea. “When it rains, they know. They look at the location, at the sky and they just know,” says Kanchan.
Now that he would soon be able to put his boat back into the waters fearlessly, Laxman promptly says, “The ban is expected so we are prepared every year. We do not celebrate grandly when it’s over, we just pray to God.”
Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma