May 01, 2008:
Jakhau Fisher Men and Women Launching the Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan by Planting Mangrove Saplings
Today 1st of may, the international day of workers, the Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan has been flagged off from Jakhau in the Kutch region of Gujarat. In Jakhau there are 25,000 fishers. The area suffers from tremendous loss of catch. According to Mitthu Bhai an elderly local fisher the fish catch has come down to 10% of what it was 10 years back. The fisherpeople here are under the threat of extinction due to large cle pollution from Sanghi and Anjan Cement Factories. Fly ash and waste water from these factories have devastated the fish stock. Private jetties built up by these factories have destroyed large areas of mangrove plantation.
Jakhau Salt and Welbrind two salt companies have acquired 300 hectares of land but using only 40 acres. All this land has been acquired by destroying mangroves and fishers are not allowed in the area. The chemical waste released from these salt factories further pollute and devastate the ecology and environment of Jakhau.
The Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan was flagged off by ceremonial and symbolic planting of mangrove saplings by local fishers. Fisherwomen were particularly enthusiastic in planting mangroves.Because mangroves are the symbols of wellbeing of coastal ecology and they are the first victims of so called development efforts that wreck havoc to natural coastal and marine resources. After planting of mangrove saplings Adam Ibrahim Jat, a senior leader of the fishers led the fishers to take an oath in the name of god that they will plant, protect and help regenerate mangroves. That they will fight to the last to protect the water and their livelihood.
The inaugural meeting was attended by around 400 local fisher men and women. Isha Bhai the Sarpanch (President) of local Panchayet, Siddique Bhai, Sakina Bahen, Ahmed Bhai, Abdul Shah - all leaders of local fishers spoke of the desparate situation the fishers are facing and expressed their resolve to fight for justice, for livelihood, for protection of natural resources.
Harekrishna Debnath, Chairperson,NFF said that a state which is only 60years old has no right to encroach upon the traditional and customary rights of the fishers, which are thousands years old. As the land belongs to the tillers, so the coast and coastal waters belong to the fishers. There is no power on the earth which can rob the fishers of this natural right.
He asked the fishers to unite and stand as one from Kutch in Gujarat to Sundarban in West Bengal. He said that not only in Jakhau or Gujarat, but in the whole of India the picture is the same. Everywhere the government is playing in the hands of big business and allowing large scale encroachment of coastal land and devastation of coastal resources by SEZs, large tourism, polluting industries , nuclear power plants. Now the government has allowed the foreign fishing vessels to fish in our waters. He warned the Government that very soon a big wave of protest and agitation will engulf the whole of the Indian coast. The agitating fishers together with the people of India who care to protect the natural resources of our country will defeat the wrong policies of the government. He called on the fisherpeople of Jakhau to send at least two persons from each coastal village of the area to Delhi in July for a march to the parliament and sitting in demonstration.
NFF national leaders Shri Narendra Patil, Shri Ramesh Dhuri, Smt. Purnima Meher, Shri Noel Kuni, Shri Bharat Patel, Mr. Dharmendra of Yusuf Meherally Centre, Mohd Osman Gani of MASS, Father David and other leaders addressed the gathering.
In the afternoon the Abhiyan reached in Layza fishing village and conducted a public meeting. Hundreds of fisher men and women participated and resolved to fight for their rights and protect the coastal zone from violent encroachments.
The fishers responded with enthusiasm.