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To save fishermen on trawlers, Bengal minister says life jackets must

Last year, as many as 27 fishermen died in the Bay of Bengal after their trawlers capsized. This year, 24 are missing after a trawler sunk on July 6.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2019 19:28 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Kolkata/Midnapore
West Bengal government will hold a meeting with the fishermen association to prepare a blueprint on how to train fishermen and minimise sinking of fishing trawlers, said fisheries minister Chandranath Sinha.
West Bengal government will hold a meeting with the fishermen association to prepare a blueprint on how to train fishermen and minimise sinking of fishing trawlers, said fisheries minister Chandranath Sinha.(AFP Photo)
         

Plagued by the regular sinking of fishing trawlers and loss of lives of fishermen, the West Bengal government will hold a meeting with the fishermen association to prepare a blueprint on how to train them and minimise such accidents, said fisheries minister Chandranath Sinha.

While Sinha said that the details of the steps would be worked out in consultation with the fishermen’s body, he promised to crack down on the reluctance of those going out to the sea to wear life jackets.

Incidentally, last year as many as 27 fishermen died in the Bay of Bengal after their trawlers capsized. This year, 24 are missing after a trawler sunk on July 6.

The matter attracted national attention after one of the survivors, Rabindranath Das, was rescued by a Bangladeshi cargo ship. He managed to survive miraculously for five days without food and drank only rain water after his trawler sunk on July 6.

On Friday, Sundarbans Development minister Manturam Pakhira said that if trawlers don’t carry life jackets and fishermen don’t wear them, the government might decide to cancel the licence of the trawler owners.

According to the state government, 10,000-10,500 trawlers in the state go out to the sea to catch fish. On an average, about 15 men board each vessel that regularly ventures to a distance of more than 80 nautical miles or more than 150 km from the shore.

Officials allege that most fishermen do not follow the safety instructions while going out into the sea. The guidelines that are most frequently violated are carrying floating tubes and wearing life jackets on board.

“We have called a meeting on Tuesday where all issues will be discussed. We are concerned about the regular sinking of trawlers that has to be minimised. We are also thinking of imparting training to the fishermen who steer the trawlers,” said Chandranath Sinha.

“Many trawlers owners do not follow instructions and rules that enjoin carrying life jackets and rubber tubes in the trawlers so that loss of lives can be avoided,” the fisheries minister added.

Officials of the fisheries department allege that mishap sometimes takes place because many of those who steer trawlers lack proper training.

“We are contemplating whether we could appoint an agency that would impart training to steer these vessels,” said a senior official of the fisheries department.

“We would be present at the meeting. If the training is arranged we will welcome it,” said Bijan Maity, secretary of the fishermen Association of Kakdwip. He also admitted that most fishermen do not wear life jackets since it is uncomfortable to wear these synthetic materials in sticky weather. “But if the government plans to take strong action against erring fishermen, we would welcome it, since it concerns the most important issue of loss of life,” said Maity.

“There are many issues. We insist that while giving a licence, the government should physically verify whether trawlers have all the equipment on board. However, we often hear that there are not an adequate number of officers to carry it out,” said Pranab Kar, president Digha Fishermen & Fish Traders Association.

Kar also said that they would be greatly benefited if the government dredges the channels connecting the sea and Shankarpur (in East Midnapore district) since trawlers get damaged due to shallow drafts.

Some incidents of trawlers capsizing also take place in these areas, said another functionary of a fishermen’s body.

First Published: Jul 13, 2019 19:28 IST

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