Fisherfolk meet BMC, fisheries minister for re-establishing fish markets

Minister for textiles, fisheries and port development Aslam Sheikh assured the delegation of an equitable settlement between the fisherfolk and BMC over the recently demolished fish markets at Crawford Market and Dadar.
Photo for representational purpose only. (HT FILE)
Photo for representational purpose only. (HT FILE)
Published on Aug 25, 2021 11:44 PM IST
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ByPrayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai

Representatives of Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti (AMMKS) on Wednesday met with a senior Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official to voice their demands regarding the recently demolished fish markets at Crawford Market and Dadar. The meeting followed a jan akrosh morcha called by AMMKS held at Azad Maidan which was attended by at least 1,000 members of the fisherfolk community.

Community leaders expressed resentment after their meeting with joint commissioner Ramesh Pawar. “We had asked to meet with Iqbal Chahal, but instead we were granted an audience with Mr Pawar. We demanded that the fish markets Crawford Market and Dadar to be re-established on sight, at the earliest. This is non-negotiable. We were told that the matter is the state government’s responsibility. There were no resolutions today,” said Devendra Tandel, president, AMMKS.

When asked, Pawar said, “Market department is not with me.”

The delegation led by Tandel later met with minister for textiles, fisheries and port development Aslam Sheikh, who assured the delegation of an equitable settlement between the fisherfolk and BMC. “Shaikh told us that the issue fall entirely within the remit of BMC, and that he will speak to the municipal commissioner. Our only demand is that we get back our evicted lands and fish markets,” Tandel said. He added that various fishing societies across the state — which also depend on Crawford Market for business — will wait 10 days to hear back from BMC with a concrete resolution, failing which a more aggressive protest will be mounted.

In July this year, BMC had demolished the Chhatrapati Shivaji fish market within the Jyotiba Phule Market, also known as Crawford Market, after the building was deemed to be hazardous. Subsequently, Meenatai Thackeray fish market in Dadar was also demolished following longstanding complaints of traffic jams near Senapati Bapat Marg.

“Chhatrapati Shivaji market is the heart of our business. Fish from all over the state comes there, and we go to collect it. Without that market, the fish business in Mumbai cannot survive. BMC has offered us a space in Airoli, but over there we are facing competition from established fisherwomen. Besides, it is too far away. It costs us double the fare to travel there as compared to Crawford Market. There are no bathrooms, no drinking water. The area is a marshy jungle and we don’t feel safe at all,” said Manda Guru Salian, a fisherwoman from Cuffe Parade who was present at the protest.

Prior to demolition, Chhhatrapati Shivaji wholesale fish market reported a daily turnover of 5 crore and directly supported livelihoods of 157 fisherwomen, 87 wholesalers and 36 suppliers. “These are just the licensed operators. Indirectly, the market supports over a 1,000 fish workers. You cannot expect all of them to just leave their customary area and start trade elsewhere. Existing relationships with clients will be ruined,” said Tandel.

Dadar fishmarket, meanwhile, was a wholesale venue for freshwater fish, a business dominated by migrants from West Bengal and adjacent states. Roughly 36 Koli fisherwomen were conducting their business there and have now been moved to a fish market in Marol, where they report facing stiff competition and from existing traders.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021