With the annual fishing ban due to monsoon set to commence in June, nearly 20,000 fishermen of Vasai taluka, whose business has upended by the Covid-19 pandemic, are staring at a bleak year ahead. Vasai, located 54 km North of Mumbai, has been a major wholesale centre for fish along with Arnala and Naigaon.
At Vasai’s Pachu Bandar, more than 300 boats arrive every day bringing in close to 50 tonnes of catch. Locals claim they are able to sell only half the catch due to lack of buyers. Post the nationwide lockdown on March 24, all fishing activities had been shut down. In April, however, fishing was allowed by the central government.
“Over 12,000 fishermen from the region are suffering as we are not getting buyers. We are also being troubled by officials, who, despite the government order allowing us to sell fish, want us to shut the market. There has not been a single Covid-19 case in our area, and yet we are being harassed,” said Sanjay Silvester Koli, chairman of Vasai Macchimar Sarvoday Sahkari Sanstha. Local fishermen say that ever since they restarted the fishing activity on May 1, they have had a difficult time in finding buyers.
“I used to earn about Rs 4,000 a day from the sale of fish. Now, it is hard to earn even Rs 1,000 a day. I have a family of seven. The police often stop us from selling fish, despite the government order. How will we survive if fishing activity stops from June,” said Calara Ete, a local fisherwoman.
Meanwhile, local fishermen have sought financial help from the state to tide over the crisis.
“The state should pay Rs 30,000 a month to each fisherman for the next three months. This is the only way they will be able to survive the monsoon,” Koli said.
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