NFF Coastal Campaign

13th May 2008 

The Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan resumed it’s jatra from Uran today, on the 13th of May 2008, with the abhiyan members performing a street play in the coastal village of Karanja for “jan jagruti” or mass awareness generation. The Karanja Machhimar Vividha Karyakari Sahakari Society Ltd. catalyzed this rendezvous with the coastal residents alongside a market populated exclusively by women fish vendors. The audience was attracted by the music and dance in the middle of the road with a clear view of the coast. A meeting with the office bearers of the local fishworker’s samiti highlighted the linkages of the demands put up by the Abhiyan with local issues.
The abhiyan activists split into two groups to cover larger areas. It was observed that 10,000 acres of land would be affected by a port as part of an SEZ proposed to be constructed by Reliance. 135 coastal villages of which 80 are exclusively dependent on fishing would be affected by the project which is estimated to cost approximately 20,000 crores of Rupees. 50,000 traditional fisher folk would be displaced from their traditional livelihood forever as the SEZ would legally encompass the area of 22 km into the sea. The meeting at the coastal village of Revas Bodani was attended by about 150 fishers including leaders of the community. The villagers submitted that the proposed container port would destroy a large tract of mangrove forest and this would have a very negative impact on coastal environment and livelihood of fisher people. It was reported that there were local agitations in the fishing villages. The villagers said that there was no direct proposal to purchase the land but a few contractors and middlemen have already acquired land in the area.  
Going into villages along the Alibag coast in the Raigarh district of Maharashtra the Abhiyan generated an electrifying atmosphere. The local fishers rushed to the campaign vehicles decorated by hoardings from which the activists were shouting slogans, giving out speeches and distributing leaflets. Everywhere the Abhiyan was greeted by warmth; everywhere the communities were spontaneously receiving the Abhiyan and enthusiastically expressing their solidarity with the campaign’s demands.  Organizers of local meetings were garlanding the activists and felicitating them with flowers. The villagers cordially offered the Abhiyan activists food and soft drinks.
Campaign souvenirs – banyans and caps bearing campaign slogans were distributed among the villagers at subsidized rate. These were high in demand and served as moving posters carrying the message of the Abhiyan.
The Abhiyan then proceeded to Thal port to hold a brief meeting there on its way to the urban sector near the district administration’s head-office at Alibag.
“Samudra Amcha Kolencha, Nahi Konacha Bappacha”
“Kinara Amchi Kolenchi, Nahi Konachi Bapachi”
“Jo Humse Takrayega, Pani me doob jayega”
Kamane wala Khayega….. Lootne wala Jayega”
The campaign trail resounded with these slogans shouted by the Abhiyan activists and joined by the fisherpeople.
The Shri Martoi Varsoli Machhimar Vividh Karyakari Sahakari Society Ltd. was our next stop. Various delegates like Mr Changa Posha Kulam, Chairman of Martand Vividh Karyakari Sahkari Society, Mr. Balkrishna Mahaden Koli attended the meeting. NFF national leader Mr Narendra Patil gave a powerful speech opposing the government’s drive to replace CRZ Notification by CMZ Notification.
The street drama group with student actors accompanying the Abhiyan were enthusiastically performing their play that highlighted the fisherpeoples’ problems and the demands raised by the abhiyan. The student actors introduced an element of humour and enjoyment. A crowd was pulled each time they beat the drums before the play.
Kanderao Pada was the next destination where the Abhiyan reached at 7:30 pm. where there are 40 small and 2 big fish landing centres. People from 5 neighbouring padas (Aglechiwadi, Dhoorechiwadi, Bajarpada, Varsoolpada, Kanderaopada) came to join the meeting. The speakers here once again spoke forcefully about the advent of SEZ’s and the proposed CMZ punctuating their speeches with slogans.
The meeting held at Mahadev Koli Samaj Navpada was attended by 2 Padas each represented by a chairman each. Mr. Balkrishna Guruji, Chairman of Navpada and Mr. Jaiprakash Sainam, Chairman of Junapada. About 200 people attended the meeting which began at 10:30 pm and stretched till around 12:15 am. As a tyre of a campaign vehicle got punctured and the NFF Chairperson got delayed, the activists accompanying the Abhiyan handled the situation by inviting many of the local Samiti Chairpersons to speak. They shared the platform with Mr Ahmad kaka from Kutch, Gujarat who shared the experience of his own village from his fisher community’s context with which the audience could relate to the new jargon and threat posed by SEZ’s.
The journey would highlight the stories of various fishing villages along the east and west coasts of India before reaching Kolkata. The aspirations, initiatives and energies of the fisherpeople roused along the Indian coast traversed by the Abhiyan and manifested in the ‘15 point agenda of the fisher people’ would culminate in a dharna in front of the Parliament during its monsoon session. In each place along the coast  fisherpeople are committing to participate in the Sansad Abhiyan in July in large numbers.
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