India's government urged to allow stranded fishermen to return home

Published on
May 14, 2020

The government of India has been asked to give permission to thousands of fishermen currently being stranded on large private vessels and trawlers to return to their villages, The Hindu BusinessLine reported on 10 May.

The requests have been made as the workers from several states – including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa – face “immense hardships” such as severe lack of food and water, as well as other poor living conditions and no payment of wages. They have been unable to travel back to their homes due to travel bans imposed by the government during lockdown orders.

India's government has extended a nationwide lockdown for the second time until 18 May to try to contain the spread of the outbreak in the world’s second-most populous country. As of 11 May, India had more than 67,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19, with over 2,200 deaths, according to The Economic Times.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a clarification that the government will not facilitate movement of the migrant workers. That stance has been protested by representatives of the workers, including the National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (NPSSFW).

“The MHA’s last clarification on the type of migrants whose movement will not be facilitated by the government has given the administration an escape route to shrug off its responsibility towards fishers. There has to be a clear instruction ... on allowing fishers to travel back,” NPSSFW Convener Pradip Chatterjee said.

In a letter to Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on 7 May, the NPSSFW said many workers were sick and some have even died because of the severe conditions they are facing. In that letter, NPSSFW called on the ministry to work to facilitate the movement of the fishermen with the Department of Fisheries, fishing associations, and unions.

“With 62 fishing harbors, 181 landing centers, and a total of 269,047 fishing boats around the coasts of the country, it is nearly impossible for all workers’ needs to be addressed without a coordinated plan,” the organization said in its letter.

Photo courtesy of Daniel J. Rao/Shutterstock 

Reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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