Rahul Gandhi’s ‘war over sea’, a misplaced adventure?

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is reportedly planning an outreach programme in Chavakkad in Thrissur district next week to take up the cause of traditional fishermen. The most pressing issue there is described as the woes of fishermen resulting from the Central Government’s decision to impose ban on fishing for 61 days. He is ill-advised to take up this issue as a shorter ban on fishing is not actually in the interests of traditional fishermen.

It may be recalled that the traditional fishermen had launched a series of agitations for three-month ban on bottom trawling during monsoon led by persons like Fr. Thomas Kocheri and Sr. Philomin Mary in the eighties. The mechanised boat owners were strongly opposed to the ban though it was aimed at conservation of fish resources.

Fishermen's agitation

Fishermen blocking the highway at Alappuzha in 1985 demanding, among other things, ban on trawling.      Photo: Roy Mathew

Congress leader K. Karunakaran was not in favour of the ban and had used police to suppress the agitation when he was the Chief Minister. However, even Congress supporters in the Dheevara Sabha were forced to take a stand in favour of the ban. The agitation led to appointment of various committees to study the issue. Finally, the government decided to have a shorter ban of about 45 days though this was not a scientifically sound decision. Expert committees had called for a longer ban during monsoon to cover the entire breeding season of fishes.

What has changed between now and then is that more of the traditional fishermen have become owners or workers of mechanized fishing boats. The same forces which opposed the ban for quick returns and lobbied with Karunakaran are now behind Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s move. The only difference is that more ‘traditional fishermen’ are now with them. However, this assessment would depend on whether someone is ‘traditional’ by birth or by use of the fishing gears.

Scientifically, the only thing that has changed is confirmation of the fact that all (economically valuable) fishes do not breed during monsoon. Experts in the eighties have either discounted this fact or did not have adequate data to come to a conclusion. This may necessitate deeper look into the recommendation and possibly modification of the ban on a regional basis. More important may be the need to declare marine reserves like wildlife sanctuaries.

A shorter ban will not fully serve the purpose and a two month ban is reasonable considering all the factors. However, stricter enforcement of ban on net types and mesh sizes will be more crucial to conservation of marine resources. Fishlings ought to be allowed to grow to certain sizes before they are harvested.

Related Report:

After land, Rahul to wage war over sea

Actor Sheila’s entry into politics in limbo

Actress Sheela’s entry into Congress politics so far is a non-starter. This is not surprising to anyone who knows Congress politics and groupism in the State.

Congress leaders in the State would not countenance lateral entry of leaders into the party that would affect their chances. The only one they would willingly or grudgingly tolerate is Rahul Gandhi. Recall the bitterness that the entry of Shashi Tharoor generated in the State unit despite the credentials he presented and the support of the high command.

Sheela in film Chemmeen

Actor Sheela in film Chemmeen

Sheela went to none other than Defence Minister A. K. Antony, apparently thinking that he is her best bet. Mr. Antony and his wife warmly received her but cold-shouldered her proposal referring her to KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala. Can Ramesh Chennithala afford to spare her a Rajya Sabha when all the UDF constituents are warring for seats? Can he even think of fielding her in the next elections?

And can she win an election from Kerala? That she was the heartthrob of the older generation on the silver screen is not sufficient for her to get electoral support in Kerala. Even the evergreen hero Prem Nazir could not do that in his heydays, that too despite being sponsored by K. Karunakaran. If one should know the gravity of his failure, remember that Karunakaran was one who had managed to make non-entities like A. Charles and M. R. Raghuchandra Bal to win elections and get foothold in the party.