Report by Pradeep Baisakh, Bhubaneswar: In 2011 the state government declared 14 point benefit scheme for the fishermen community to protect their livelihood in wake of government’s ban motorised fishing in the sea during the breeding time of the Olive Ridley turtles.
The ban is active for seven months in a year which incurs substantial loss to the fisherworker community as for most of them fishing is the primary source of income; though, in some cases paddy and other forest produces supplant their income.
The state government declared to provide two rupees per kilogram rice to the non-BPL families of this community during the ban period. It declared to provide fiver boat in subsided rate; subsidy to motorise the traditional boats so on. However the people from Nagar panchayat of Astaranga block of Puri district complain of irregularity in conducting the survey of families which will get the benefit of two rupee rice.
Sanjukta Behera and Panchanan Behera is a family from Nuakaliakana of the aforesaid Panchayat which does not have a BPL card. But they were not in the list of the survey. Though the list is not in public domain, some who have access to it intimated the couple about this. As a result the couple registered a complaint near the district level fishery department about it. Similarly Jyoshnarani Behera and husband Gagan Behera house was not surveyed. Even though they do not carry a BPL card, they have no clue if they are in the list. “No such household survey was conducted to identify the true beneficiaries” complains Sanjukta Behera. On the other hand the Asst Fishery Officer Nrushinga Mohanty says “We have conducted a door to door survey with help of SHGs in the villages. The data is being entered. Once that is done the concerned people will get the benefits.”
However in the cases where a person’s name figure in the BPL card of the father, his family is excluded from the benefits, complain the villagers. Under the current dispensation, the BPL survey of 1997 is in operation. In these 16 years many new families have been created by getting separated from the original families. Asst fisheries officer says “We have raised this matter at the state level. The current policy is to give this special benefits to the non-BPL families,. This is a policy level issue. At the field level we can hardly change it. But I think let the first list roll; the government may consider reckoning others in the second time basing on specific complaint.”
Simanchal Panda, an activist working in the area says “The functioning of other schemes exclusively meant for this community is also not very encouraging. The banks hardly cooperate in giving subsidised loan for purchasing the fibre boats. Moreover many people cannot take benefit of the saving-cum-relief scheme due to procedural hassles.” Under this saving scheme the fisher folk community is financially supported by the government during lean seasons.
Adequate awareness among then communities about the special provisions for them and simplification of procedure to avail the same will go a long way to protect the livelihood of the fisherworkers who are considered as marginalised section in the society.