Hundreds of fisherfolk on Wednesday took out a massive protest rally in the state capital and laid siege to the Secretariat here with boats and fishing nets alleging that the Left government was neglecting their demands. Led by a group of priests and nuns under the Latin Archdiocese, members of the fishing community, including women, arrived here from various coastal hamlets in the state and blocked the busy city roads raising slogans against the authorities for a few hours.
The police’s attempt to prevent the protesters from marching ahead, led to tense moments. The fishermen also staged protests in several places when the motor vehicle department personnel tried to prevent them from bringing huge boats tied atop vehicles.
A woman protester said they have been facing severe coastal erosion for years but the government was taking no steps to find any permanent solution for the issue. Around 500 houses had been destroyed in various coastal hamlets and the government should take urgent measures for the rehabilitation of those who lost their houses, they demanded.
They also alleged that the unscientific construction of groynes, the artificial sea walls known as “pulimutt’ in local parlance, as part of the upcoming Vizhinjam port was one of the reasons for the increasing coastal erosion in the district and urged the authorities to intervene into the issue at the earliest. Another woman protester said hundreds of families including that of her were living in a government godown for the last four years after their houses had been damaged due to high waves and sea erosion.
“We need a house.. We have been demanding it for the past four years. But, the government is doing nothing other than holding mere discussions. Do you (the government) need only our votes?” she asked. One of the priests who led the protesters said the authorities were just making promises and doing nothing to resolve the issues of fishermen community “That attitude is really regrettable. The entire coast is destroyed. The Shangumugham beach and Kovalam tourism resort are facing severe sea erosion threat. Over 50,000 fishermen are facing job loss,” he said.
The fishermen community as well as the Church are equally concerned over the issue, he said, adding that it was only a token strike and the protest would be intensified further if the government does not address the demands of the fishermen at the earliest.