Delisting of ‘fake’ Hilsa fishermen demanded

DHAKA : Several rights organizations yesterday urged the government to provide identity cards to genuine Hilsa fishermen only and delist the fake ones enjoying government aid unethically during temporary bans over off-season fishing of the delicious fish in major rivers and along the coast, reports BSS.
They said the people who were never fishermen under any criteria were enjoying various supports and government services while the real and deserving fishermen were being deprived off those services and benefits. The anomaly has been frustrating campaigns to prevent ‘jatka’ catches and mother Hilsa harvests.
The demands were made at a human chain held in front of the National Press Club by a group of 27 civil society networks, farmers, fishers and labour organizations, according to a press release available here.
Representatives from the organizations appreciated the government’s initiative for the temporary ban on the catch of the national fish, mostly imposed twice in a year, but observed that a lack of proper management of the compensation has been hindering its objectives.
Sanat Kumar Bhowmik, director of COAST, said Hilsa production has increased by 44,000 metric tons per year as a result of various government initiatives. The Hilsa production income now hovers around Taka 22,000 crore.
The Ministry Of Fisheries and Animal Resources imposes temporary bans twice in a year – March-April and early October- to prevent over exploitation of Hilsa, the most delicious national fish, through preventing the fishing of fries and pregnant mother fishes.
During the temporary ban, thousands of families living on Hilsa fishing get temporarily unemployed and the government provides 40kgs of rice to each fisherman to run their families during the period and comply with the government’s instruction.
Asif Iqbal of ‘Muktir Dak’ said an estimated 30 percent of ‘fake fishermen’ managed to have ID cards under social and political influences, while 40 percent of genuine Hilsa fishermen have yet to get their cards.
It’s a total mismanagement of a good initiative, he added.
Mujibul Haque Munir of Coast Trust said the income from the annual increased production of Hilsa was Tk 200 crore as opposed to the amount for fishers compensation of 13 crore only. The mismanagement of government’s aid not only deprives the most deserving fishermen but also the aid reaches to the target group too lately, he observed adding compensation must be provided at least seven days before the ban starts.
The rights organizations also came up with some specific suggestions that are likely to change the situation and improve fishers’ conditions. These include: fishermen’s participation must be ensured during rice distribution process or the money should be channeled through bank accounts or mobile banking.
Special allocation for the poor Hilsa fishermen can be made from the Climate Change Trust Fund as well, they pointed out.