The Gujarat government has hired three cargo ships to evacuate around 2,700 fishermen from Andhra Pradesh, who have been stranded at the Veraval fishing harbour since the nationwide lockdown began.
The fishermen, who hail from Andhra’s coastal districts of Srikakulam and Vizianagaram, had been working on fishing boats in Gujarat’s Veraval, Mangrol and Porbandar as well as Diu since July 2019. Usually, they return home every June – the end of the fishing season.
However, due to the lockdown, all fishing activity has ceased and the fishermen are stranded on their boats anchored at Veraval harbour.
Andhra Pradesh Information and Public Relations Minister P Venkataramaiah said that 8-10 fishermen are living in each boat. “The harbour is closed and they cannot go out… After living (on the boat) for nearly one month they are all very eager to return home. After the lockdown was extended on April 14, they approached the CMs of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat to allow them to return home,” he said.
The owners of the boats and the fishermen’s association have pooled money to provide food to the fishermen. “Most of them are very poor and they come this far to earn their livelihood. In this crisis, it is our duty to take care of them… We have sent letters to the Gujarat CM as well as the Centre to help them go home,’’ said Kishorebhai Kuhada, president of the Veraval Fishermen’s Association.
After several rounds of talks between Andhra Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and his Gujarat counterpart Vijay Rupani, it was decided Thursday morning to evacuate the fishermen by sea route using three cargo ships.
“As they cannot come by land or air routes, we thought we should evacuate them by sea route. They may not even get their wages because the boat owners suffered losses too. CM has directed officials here to provide Rs 2,000 per fisherman as immediate relief to them…,’’ Venkataramaiah said.
The Gujarat government has hired three cargo ships from Salaya port near Jamnagar to accommodate the fishermen and sail them to Andhra Pradesh. Each ship can accommodate 900-1000 persons.