Fish markets and fishing villages across Mumbai, Thane and Palghar districts have backed the bandh called on Tuesday by the Vadhavan Bandar Virodhi Sangharsh Sangathana (VBVSS) in protest against the construction of a new port at Vadhavan in Dahanu.
While the VBVSS announced the bandh on Saturday, many fishermen’s co-operative societies in the city and neighbouring districts of Thane and Palghar erected signage on Monday in solidarity with the VBVSS. To mark their protest, there will be no fishing activity on Tuesday across various fishing villages in and around Mumbai.
“Fishing villages in Mumbai and Thane will be suspended and fish markets will remain closed on Tuesday as a mark of protest. In six villages in Dahanu, including Vadhavan and Varor, there will be a complete bandh. Even shops will remain closed. This is a completely non-violent protest,” said Aniket Patil, working president of the VBVSS.
Secretary of the National Fish Workers’ Forum Jyoti Meher said, “There will be equal participation of women in this bandh. If fish markets remain closed, naturally fisherwomen will not be carrying out their business. All coastal villages, from Cuffe Parade to Zai in Palghar, will observe the bandh, fish markets and shops will be closed. There may not be any demonstrations but we may form a human chain or bear black flags in protest.”
However, the Vangaon police station on Monday issued a notice to VBVSS to refrain from gathering a crowd and violating the safety protocols in place for the Covid-19 pandemic. The notice stated that action will be taken against the VBVSS if a situation disturbing the law and order is created on Tuesday or a large crowd is gathered without paying heed to precautions of maintaining safe distance between people. Vadhavan falls in the jurisdiction of the Vangaon police station.
On Monday, Dahanu MLA Vinod Nikole said, “The Vadhavan port project in Palghar will destroy our farmers, fishermen. The location of the port is ideal for marine conservation but if this port comes up, it will ruin everything.” He said his party, the CPI (M), has completely opposed the project and six MLAs from Palghar including those from Congress, NCP and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi had backed the protests. “As MLAs from Palghar, we have all come together. I am not aware of the positions of their political parties,” said Nikole. He added, “We have made our position clear. We want the port project out of Vadhavan. We are ready to take our protest to the streets but we will see how the government deals with the issue.”
On Monday, several fishing villages in Mumbai had announced the closure of fish markets on Tuesday like the fishermen’s co-operative societies from Colaba-Cuffe Parade, Mahim, Madh, Naigaon, Arnala, Satpati, Vadrai and Manori, among others. The Palghar district Auto-Rickshaw-taxi-Tempo Chalak Malak Sangathana had also extended support to the bandh on Tuesday. Placards and banners bearing the slogan, “Ekach Jidduh, Vadhavan Bandar radduh (Just one demand, cancel Vadhavan port)” were put up across the participating fishing villages on Monday. Some protestors announced that they will be shaving their heads in protest at Shankhodar in Vadhavan.
The Vadhavan Bandar Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti and six other organisations of fishermen and tribals had announced the bandh on December 12. They claimed the Vadhavan port project will be “destructive for the fishermen, tribals, locals, sons of the soil, farmers, orchard owners and dye-makers” of Dahanu.
Locals in Dahanu had staged a protest in Vadhavan and Varor villages in Dahanu against a biodiversity survey carried out by a team of scientists and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust officials on December 2 and 3. Consultants appointed by the JNPT carried out a biodiversity survey for the proposed port — set to be India’s 13th major port to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 65,544.54 crore — on the two days. The JNPT and the Maharashtra Maritime Board are development partners for the port project with 74 per cent and 26 per cent equity share.