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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

I admire what you do: Rahul Gandhi tells fishermen of Kerala, sails with them

Gandhi's interaction with the fishermen assumes significance as the Congress-led UDF has raised allegations against the Left government in the state over an alleged deep sea fishing contract with a US-based company.

By: Express Web Desk | Kollam |
Updated: February 24, 2021 5:47:30 pm
Rahul Gandhi joined the fishermen of Kollam for morning fishing on the high-sea. (Source: Twitter/@INCIndia)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday turned seafarer and pulled the net with local fisherman in high sea here to get a taste of their life and understand the issues facing them.

In an emotional talk with thousands of fisherfolk, including women gathered at the Thangassery beach in this southern coastal district, the Nehru scion said he admired and respected what the fishermen do.

“I understand and respect what you do. I admire what you are doing. Many times, we eat the fish but we will not understand the hard work behind and how it reached our plate,” Gandhi said.

Earlier, the Wayanad MP ventured into sea with some fishermen in their boat from Vadi beach here by 4.30 am and spent nearly an hour with them before reaching the venue of interaction.

The Wayanad MP also cast the net with them but could only catch one squid.

Clad in blue t-shirt and khaki trousers, the Congress leader could be seen waving hands to the onlookers from the boat while reaching back to the shores.

Addressing the fishermen as “brothers” throughout his talk, he said he wanted to get a sense of what many of them go through every day.

He said, “This morning I went into the sea with my brothers. You know the experience but I want to tell you what I saw. From the moment the boat left the shore and came back again, every single force was trying to fight my brothers. They take the entire risk, put their entire labour, fight the sea and buy the net but somebody else gets the profit.”

He added, “This morning when we drew the net there was only one squid in it. So, despite the whole investment that was put in, into the journey and the petrol, there was no return. In my mind I was expecting the net to be full of fish but the net came back empty. I saw with my own eyes your experience.”

Speaking about the rising fuel prices, Gandhi said, “You cannot even buy an engine of a certain size now. The boat cannot be maintained here. The fishermen don’t have insurance. So, I wanted to tell you that now if a fisherman comes to me and says he is struggling, I will understand what he is going through. I only pulled the net for one day while you do it every day. So, I understand and respect what you are doing. I admire what you are doing.”

“They cooked some fish on the boat. For the first time I realised, directly with my own eyes the difficulty to get the fish on the plate,” he said amidst thunderous applause.

Noting that he wanted to work with them to make their life easier, he also said he might not be able to resolve all their problems but he can certainly work with them and resolve as many as he can.

““Before I left the boat I asked a fisherman what do your children do. He said my children don’t want to be fishermen because it is too difficult and risky. I want to tell you that I want to work with you to make your life easier. I might not be able to resolve all your problems but I can certainly stand with you and work with you to resolve as many of them as we can.”

AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and T N Prathapan M P, also chairman of National Fishermen Congress, also accompanied him during his sea journey.

Gandhi further said he would strive to have a separate ministry for fisheries at the Centre.

“So that the issues of fishing community can be defended and protected,” he said adding that the UDF leaders in the state would soon hold discussions with the fisherfolk to prepare a separate manifesto for them during the impending assembly polls.

Taking a dig at the LDF government apparently over the ongoing controversy related to the alleged deep sea fishing contract, the Congress leader said he would like to see what they were going to do with the trawlers.

“I am for competition…but not for unfair competition.

So, there should be a level playing filed for everyone,” he added.

Gandhi’s interaction with the fishermen assumes significance as the Congress-led UDF has raised allegations against the Left government in the state over an alleged deep sea fishing contract with a US-based company.

In the wake of the controversy, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had directed the officials concerned to cancel the MoU between EMCC, the US-based firm and Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC), a public sector undertaking and probe the circumstances under which it was signed.

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