Draft Marine Fisheries Bill: An Attack on Livelihoods and Federalism Say Stakeholders

The clauses of the bill directly attack the livelihoods of the communities and curb the customary rights of the traditional fishing communities over the land and sea. 

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Image: The_Coast/ Twitter

The BJP ruled Union government of India is all set to table the draft Indian Marine Fisheries (IMF) Bill 2021 in the ongoing monsoon session of the parliament.

However, the Fisheries Unions in several coastal states of the country as well as several political leaders have come out in opposition to the Union government’s plan of passing the draft Bill in the session citing several contentious provisions enshrined in it.

The drafting process of the Bill, unions have said, was completely non-participatory, where the traditional fishing communities and other primary stakeholders were not consulted.

‘The approach of Union Government’s Department of Fisheries unveils that it is strategic exclusion and non-recognition of traditional fishing communities,’ the Traditional Fish Workers Union said.

The clauses of the bill directly attack the livelihoods of the communities and curb the customary rights of the traditional fishing communities over the land and sea.

The Bill gives the Authorised Officers power to stop and examine fishing vessels for copies of fishing documents, fishing gear, or other equipment on board with or even without a warrant.

Challenging the above-mentioned provisions, in its letter to the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Traditional Fish Workers Union, Andhra Pradesh, wrote that the section has broadened the scope for criminalising the marginalised traditional marine fishers in the Indian waters.

The draft Bill, unions said, was only briefly put out on the website, and even during that duration, it was not translated into regional languages which is why the masses were not able to access it.

Anton Gomez, the National President of the National Union of Fishermen (NUF) wrote the PM Narendra Modi saying that if the draft Bill is enacted even the non-motorised fishing vessels will require a license to operate and unlike before will be liable to penalties and even revocation of the license for fishing-related activities which will have consequences for the fishing communities and asked to stop the Bill.

Fisheries Unions in coastal states have held several protests against the bill. They have said that if the Bill is not deferred and a wider public consultation is not sought by the Union government, they will organise large-scale protests until the contentious provisions are removed.

The opposition to the draft Bill has also been registered by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin who on July 20, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against moving the Bill saying that the Bill contained ‘disturbing clauses.’

Also read: Tamil Nadu Govt Withdraws 90 Defamation Cases Against Media

‘Many provisions in the proposed Bill go against the interests of the local fishermen’ communities and certain clauses infringe upon the rights conferred to the States under the State List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India,’ Stalin’s letter read.

Thol. Thirumavalavan and D. Ravikumar, of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi who represent the coastal districts of Cuddalore and Villupuram in Lok Sabha respectively, met Union Minister for Fisheries Parshottam Rupala in New Delhi on July 22 and handed over a memorandum opposing various provisions of the Bill.

The draft Bill claims to repeal the Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981, and provide for the sustainable development of fisheries
resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India. Furthermore, it claims that it will work towards the responsible harnessing of fisheries in the High Seas by the Indian Fishing Vessels and in the development of the livelihood of the fishing communities.

Also read: What is behind the simmering protests in Lakshadweep?

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