MUMBAI: Even as the BJP was trying to control the damage caused by a series of allegations against Eknath Khadse, the revenue minister faced fresh allegations on Friday.
Fishermen’s associations have accused Khadse of favouring fishing vessels with purse seine nets, which are banned in Maharashtra. A purse seine is a large wall of netting deployed around an entire school of fish. The seine has floats along the top line with a lead line threaded through rings along the bottom. Once a school of fish is located, the boat encircles the school with the net. Purse seine nets can be several kilometres long and capture everything they surround, including protected species, leaving little or nothing for traditional fishermen.
The fishermen alleged that Khadse had made a Rs15-crore deal with owners of vessels with such nets to tweak the rules in their favour. Calling for his resignation, fishermen said that Khadse, who also holds the fisheries portfolio, had prepared a draft proposal to give licenses to fishing vessels with purse seine nets, a move they said would devastate their livelihoods and prove detrimental to marine life.
Addressing a press conference, Damodar Tandel, president of the Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti, said, “Despite the fact that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis banned fishing with purse seine nets across the state in February, Khadse was determined to start it again.”
He alleged that the deal was facilitated by Gajanan Patil, an alleged aide of Khadse who is currently behind bars for corruption. Tandel also played a video clip of a meeting held in Khadse’s cabin in which the minister said he would frame the rules as he wanted.
Khadse, however, rejected the allegations, saying that the state had always upheld the interests of traditional fishermen. He described the video recording as illegal and a conspiracy against him.