With Pakistan agreeing to return some of the Indian fishing boats apprehended from the International Maritime Border Line, Gopal Malam (52), a resident of Porbandar, has put on hold plans to recall his son studying, in Ahmedabad, back, since that added to the family’s expenses.
His being one of the boats assured to be returned, has brought back hope for this family of six whose life depended on this only fishing trawler ‘Kankuwar’ they owned, which was captured in October 2013.
“I was on the verge of asking my son Amit to leave the studies midway in Ahmedabad and come back. He has eighteen months left to complete his graduation, but I was running short of funds to support him,’’ said Malam, who lives in Kharwavass, a fishermen colony in Porbandar in Saurashtra.
“But if I get back my boat in a couple of months, I can leave the present job that is hardly paying me anything and go back to my business of fishing that helped me to support my family, including two children, wife and parents,’’ he says.?
Hemu Badiden, another boat owner, who lost his only source of income, too feels that he can now put on hold to sell off some of his property to repay the loan that he had taken at the start of fishing season last year.
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“At the beginning of every season we need to take a couple of lakh as loan for repairing of boat, nets, other equipment and salary of fishermen. This amount, we hope to recover from the net profit at the end of the fishing season’’, said -year-old Badiden (41), adding,
“My boat Asht-Vinayak was apprehended at the beginning of the fishing season in 2013. Since we couldn’t do any business our debt now has gone up to Rs 8 lakh’’.
Badiden, who knows only fishing, now manages boats of others at a meagre monthly salary of Rs 7,000. “It just doesn’t add up. But now we have a ray of hope that my boat will be back and we can be back to our business’’.
But Malam and Badiden are among the only lucky few. Last time, it was in 2003, Pakistan had released Indian fishermen along with 100 boats. Since then the number of captured boats has gone up to 847.
Soon after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attending the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected NDA Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May this year, Pakistan has agreed to release only 57 boats out of the 847. The fishing community obviously wants more boats to be released.
A motorised boat costs around Rs 30 to 35 lakh and does an annual turn over of equal amount. And, for many owners, like Malam and Badiden, it was the only source of income.
But Malam says, “We are hopeful that we will get at least 57 boats back. And, when I will be able to see my son completing studies and getting settled in some good work, I will sell off the boat and never to go back to fishing’’.
“And, after the Mumbai attacks in November 26/11, in which Pakistani terrorists had used a hijacked fishing trawler ‘Kuber’ from Porbandar, to reach Mumbai, the threat perception of misuse of captured Indian fishing boats has also gone up” said Velji Masani, the vice-president of National Fishing Forum (Gujarat), who was one of the delegation members that visited Pakistan this July to check the condition of the boats.
“Many of the captured boats have been damaged, others auctioned to local fishermen in Pakistan. 57 boats which will be returned, are in relatively good condition as they had been captured only a year ago,’’ said Velji Masani.
“The list of persons visiting Pakistan will be cleared by Pakistan government and Indian High Commission, only after the process will start,’’ says P L Darbar, Commissioner, State Fisheries Department.