In Kerala, Parliament of fishermen puts forth 29-point welfare manifesto

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As many as 543 ‘fishermen MPs’ raise their livelihood issues at Thriprayar meet organised by All India Fisheries Congress

When Kiran Kumar, a ‘fisherman MP from Karnataka’’, addressed the Fishermen Parliament here on Thursday, an array of Congress heavyweights including Congress president Rahul Gandhi sat in rapt attention. Within the time allotted to him, Mr. Kumar drew the attention of the house to the issue of seven missing fishermen of Karnataka.

“It’s 89 days since they have been missing in the sea. There is no trace of their fishing vessel either. Yet, the government has done nothing to trace them,” Mr. Kumar said, highlighting the plight of the seven families.

Following Mr. Kumar, as many as seven ‘MPs’ raised various issues concerning the fisherfolk, at the first ever National Fishermen Parliament organised by the All India Fisheries Congress.

Replying to the issue raised by Mr. Kumar, Mr. Gandhi offered to take it up with the Centre.

“I shall also write to the government,” he assured the house.

Plight of TN fishermen

A ‘parliamentarian’ from Tamil Nadu raised the issue of fishermen from his State being picked up by the Sri Lankan Navy while engaged in fishing and sought the intervention of the Congress leader for a permanent solution to the issue.

Responding to the issue, Mr. Gandhi said he would not give fake promises like Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I will give you one amplifier which would make your sound heard in Delhi. I will not offer you any small solution but a big solution that could address your issues. Somebody has to represent the fishermen in the Indian Parliament,” he said.

A representative from Odisha complained about the apathy of the Biju Janata Dal government towards the community and the lack of infrastructure in the villages of fisherfolk.

The delegate from Lakshadweep complained about the money that was long overdue for men from the coral islands.

Clad in a starched white kurtha and with a tricolour shawl thrown around his neck, Vijay Vaythi, who represented Maharashtra, highlighted the issue of depleting fisheries resources in the region due to pollution. He wanted a rehabilitation package for the inland fisherfolk who were displaced due to dams and other projects.

Special ministry

The parliamentarians roared in approval and thumped the desk when the Congress president announced his intention to form a special ministry for fisheries when the party returns to power.

The Thriprayar Sports and Games Indoor Stadium, near Thrissur, was converted into the Fishermen Parliament, where 543 elected representatives from all the country converged to discuss the issues faced by the fisherfolk.

The Fishermen Parliament was modelled on the lines of the Indian Parliament. Cabinet members were elected from among 543 members and all issues were addressed in detail, said T.N. Prathapan, a former legislator and national chairman of the organisation.

Thunderous applause

Hundreds of visitors who occupied the visitors’ gallery of the house cheered and burst into thunderous applause as the Congress president replied to the questions raised by the parliamentarians.

A 29-point manifesto of fishermen, prepared after eliciting the views of fisherfolk from across the country and interacting with various stakeholders, was released at the session.

The manifesto would serve as the framework of the Congress in providing welfare measures to fishermen, Mr. Gandhi announced at the meeting.

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