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In Baramati,politicians listening,fishermen step up protests

Jaising Nagre makes a living by fishing in the Ujjani dam backwaters in Indapur. Nagre,who is from the Bhoi community....

Written by Ranjani Raghavan | Indapur (pune) |
April 22, 2009 1:54:37 am

Jaising Nagre makes a living by fishing in the Ujjani dam backwaters in Indapur. Nagre,who is from the Bhoi community,says that in the last decade around 3,000 fishermen from other states have settled down around the Ujjani dam and have evicted the locals from plum fishing zones. There are around 6,000 local fishermen from the Bhoi community who fish in the river waters.

The local fishermen say they have been raising the issue for over a decade now. “We are not allowed to fish in our own waters. Ever since the Government began allotting tenders to contractors that give them fishing rights over the dam waters,the contractors have been bringing in fishing labour from other states as it works out to be cheaper,” says Nagre.

Though the issue is not a political hot potato,both the BJP and NCP candidates from Baramati have taken up cudgels on behalf of the local fishermen. With the elections round the corner,they are trying to leverage their political capital. “We are not going to reveal our cards now. But there is a sizeable section of votes here — around 15,000,” says Bhagwan Kolekar,local convener of the Lok Shahi Andolan that is leading the struggle for the local fishermen.

On Thursday,the face-off between the local fishermen and the ‘outsiders’ reached a flash point when the locals from 23 villages in Indapur tore the nets of their counterparts from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Overnight,several migrant families disappeared. Curiously,there was no complaint filed with the police. Baramati Deputy Superintendent of Police Paropkari Shrikant said no action could be taken without a complaint.

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In a meeting on Friday at Malwadi village,the local fishermen said they would take their struggle to the districts surrounding the Ujjani dam — Daund and Indapur in Baramati Lok Sabha constituency,Karmal and Akluj in Solapur and Karjat tehsil in Ahmednagar.

BJP candidate from Baramati Kanta Nalawade said the BJP stood by the local fishermen. “It is a question of their survival. Fishermen from Andhra Pradesh and Bihar have upstaged the business interests of the local community,” she says.

Supriya Sule,the NCP candidate,said it was a question of livelihood and ecology. “It’s a serious issue,let us not politicise it. I have visited the village and have assured them that we will look into it. It is a matter of their livelihood,and we have to also address it from the ecological point of view,” she says.

Taking a leaf out of the anti-Dow movement in Pune,the Bhoi community is trying to bring the Warkaris into the picture by trying to merge the fishermen’s struggle with the cleaning up of the Bhima river. They say fishermen from other states use mosquito nets with very small holes and sweep the waters clean of all fish,including the small ones. It is the small fish that keep the water clean,they say.

“If the water is not clean,there won’t be any fish for us to survive on,” says Kolekar. They say effluents from Kurkumb,Talegaon,Pimpri Chinchwad and Ranjangaon industrial units drain out in the Ujjani dam,polluting the waters — another reason why the fish die.

“This is the route that Warkaris take to reach the temple town of Pandharpur. They will support our cause to clean up the waters,” says Lokshahi Andolan leader Vilas Sonawane.

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