More than 2,000 fishermen from Maharashtra, stuck off the Gujarat coast near Veraval in 40 boats, have sent out an SOS to their families that they are running out of ration and that arrangement be made for their return home.
“My son has reached Nargol bay (in Gujarat) on April 4. The Gujarat government took only the Gujarat residents off the boat, but didn’t allowe Maharashtra fishermen to get down at the bay. Now, my son is suffering without food and water,” said Ishwati Sakharam Vadkar, mother of Mahendra Vadkar, a 19-year-old fisherman among those stranded at sea.
Ishwati (37), resident of Sutrakar village in Talashari taluka of Palghar, said her her son went to Veraval last August to work on a fishing boat. His contract was for 11 months. But since March 22, when the Janata Curfew was imposed, there has been no work. “The contractor said that they could all go back home, as he would not be able to pay them,” Ishwati said.
On April 2, Mahendra reached Umergaoun where local residents attacked the boats, as they tried to dock.
The boats moved on to Nargole bay. On April 4, the Gujarat government allowed 600 fishermen from the state in 23 boats to get off and and sent them to their villages for 14-day home quarantine.
Speaking to The Indian Express from his boat, Mahendra said, “In Nargol, we were asked to pay Rs 1,500 for ration supplies by the Gujarat Police.”
He added that there were 2,100 men like him from different parts of Maharashtra, and they were eating one meal a day of dal and rice, and the other was noodles cooked in sea water. In all 21 kg of dal and rice are left, said Mahendra, the only earning member in his family. His mother and three sisters are dependent on his earnings of Rs 8,000 per month.
Like Mahendra, four brothers of a family are also stranded in Veraval. Mukesh, Munna, Mahendra and Kiran Rajad belong to Patil Padha village in Talashari. Their father, Madhu Rajad, said that since the lockdown, they were trying to return but the government isn’t allowing them.
When contacted, Mukesh said, “We have not been affected by coronavirus, and we are not the ones who bought it into the country. Those who came from abroad, they bought the virus to India and the Indian government spent lakhs to bring them back. Here, we are suffering for water and food.”
Palghar district collector Kailash Shinde said:”We are in talks with the Gujarat administration and within two or three days, they will be taken to their respective villages.”
When contacted, Palghar MP Rajendra Gavit added, “I have taken the matter to the Maharashtra chief minister and also speaking to the Gujarat fishing ministry and collector to find a solution… Within a day or two, all fishermen will be home.”
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