Thursday, January 16, 2014

Latin Catholics press for fishing ministry

The leaders of Latin rite Catholics in Kerala want federal government set up a ministry exclusively for fishing to adequately address the issues related to fishing and fish workers.
The Kerala Region Latin Catholic Council (KRLC), the policy-making body of the Latin Catholic community, most of whose members live in the coastal region, has urged the government to set up an exclusive ministry for fishing.

Shaji George, KLRC secretary, told Business Line that since there was no separate ministry for fishing, the development of fishing and welfare programs for fish workers were not adequately addressed.

He noted that currently several ministries, such as Agriculture and Forests & Environment, looked after fishing. As a result, there was no focus on the problems of the fishing sector.

Though Kerala contributes more than 20 per cent of the fishing output of the country, the financial outlay for fishing by the Centre is negligible. He pointed out that the Latin Catholic community had for long been pressing for an exclusive ministry for fishing as it would help develop the fishing sector and take care of the fishing community’s welfare.

He said the general body of the KRLCC, headed by Archbishop Susai Pakiam, had decided to take out a month-long coastal rally from Kannur to Thiruvananthapuram later this month to highlight a charter of ten demands.

The need for a Ministry of Fishing topped the chart. Amending the Coastal Regulation Zone norms to relax the restrictions on building house by fish workers is another important demand of the community.

Shaji wanted the government to retain the Kollam harbour as a fishing harbour. The government is going ahead with turning it into an industrial harbour that will handle cement and LPG cargos. He said this would mean displacement of some 1,500 fishing families, most of them Latin Catholics.

He said the KRLCC general body meeting, held here over the weekend, had asked the government to announce a rehabilitation package for those living in the vicinity of the proposed Vizhinjam port before the work on the project started. Those whose land is acquired should be adequately compensated.

“Implementation of the rehabilitation package is very crucial, particularly against the backdrop of the tragic experiences of those evicted for the Vallarpadom container station project,” Shaji said.

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