The Bombay High Court has directed the state government to respond to a plea filed by the fishermen community seeking action against Fisheries department officials for allegedly violating Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and allowing hundreds of boats without authorised licenses to freely manoeuvre along the shores of Maharashtra while targeting registered fisherfolk.
A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and Madhav Jamdar on September 10 heard, through videoconference, a plea filed by Damodar Tandel, chairman of the Akhil Maharashtra Machchimar Kriti Samiti, a state-level association of fishermen, through senior counsel Sanjay Singhvi and advocate Rahul Kamerkar.
Tandel contended, “Despite the stringent curfews and restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown, hundreds of boats without authorised licenses were found to be manoeuvring and trawling using purse seine nets and LED-lights along the shores of Maharashtra.”
The plea said while the authorities in Ratnagiri district had taken prompt action against alleged violations by individual and marginalised fisherfolks, it “blatantly” continued to ignore complaints by the petitioner against illegal trawling by large boats. On the other hand, thousands of traditional fishermen, who followed rules and regulations imposed by law during the pandemic, “were targeted by authorities”, the plea added.
The petitioner also alleged that due to the “negligence, ignorance and selfishness” of the authorities, Covid-19 situation in Ratnagiri has worsened beyond control.
Tandel further said despite filing several complaints since April and serving notice under the Disaster Management Act, he had not received any relief and no inquiry or action was initiated against the offenders, hence he had moved the high court. Stating that the “neglectful behaviour of” fisheries authorities and officials amounted to “favouritism and clear violation of laws during an unprecedented time of global health and economic crisis”, the petitioner sought directions to the state government to take action and initiate inquiry against its Fisheries department officials.
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