In a boost to beleaguered traditional marine fishermen living along Paradip coast in Odisha, the state government is all set to extend public distribution system (PDS) doles to over 5,000 fishermen families.
The economy of fishing villages in Rajnagar and Mahakalpada areas has taken a severe beating following the seven-month-long prohibition on sea-fishing to ensure the safety of Olive Ridley turtles.
Depleting livelihood stakes had triggered human resource exodus from villages predominantly inhabited by fishermen communities.
The state government has resolved to extend social security to fishermen families who are being hit hard by fishing prohibition provisions.
Besides the launch of various livelihood stakes support project, the affected families would now be entitled to all PDS benefits including Rs 2 per kg rice.
"To extend PDS facilities, the exercise to enumerate traditional fishermen families is now underway. So far 5,400 families directly or indirectly hit by turtles’ conservation measures have been enumerated for PDS benefits", Rabi Narayan Pattnaik, Assistant director of marine fisheries, Paradip.
Of the affected fishermen families, 3,000 are from Mahakalpada while 2400 families are from adjoining coastal areas of Rajnagar.
The enumerated fishermen families would now become eligible for PDS benefits meant for Below Poverty Line (BPL) category families.
They would be provided with special PDS cards issued by civil supplies department, he said.
Every year, the state government clamps 7-month ban on sea-fishing in a 20 km radius sea territory stretching from Dhamara to Devi river mouth.
In accordance with the Odisha Marine Fisheries Regulatory Act, 1983, the prohibitory orders on sea fishing remains effective from November 1 to May 31.
The legal embargo on fishing is put to ensure the safety of breeding turtles who perish in large number either by getting entangled in mono-filament fishing nets or by getting hit by propellers of trawls.
The prohibition in past years has resulted in a drastic drop in marine fish production and economy of the region which is largely regulated by sea fishing sector, Tushar Sardar, the district wing president of Orissa Traditional Fish Workers Association, said.
Ancilliary sectors like ice-factories and net making units in areas like Dhamra, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Ramnagar, Sandhakuda, Ambiki, Erasama and Paradipgada have closed down.
Skilled boat-makers and net weavers from these areas are slowly shifting their base towards Digha and Vishakhapatnam due to bleak business, he claimed.
To compensate the loss of livelihood stakes of thousands of marine fishermen and other stakeholders in seaside villages, World Bank-funded Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme (ICZMP) project has got a kick-start in these pockets, said marine fisheries.
Rs 25.61 crore worth ICZMP scheme is presently in full swing with its prioritised objective being to provide alternate livelihood stakes to fishermen communities living along the coastal areas. The funds are being spent through 60 self help groups, the officials said.