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Fishermen protest demanding subsidy on diesel, welfare fund in Odisha

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BHUBANESWAR, Feb 27: A large number of fishermen from the coastal areas of three districts of Odisha on Tuesday staged a protest here, demanding fulfilment of their six-point charter of demands, including social security.

The members of the fishing community, under the banner of Odisha State Fishermen Federation, demanded subsidy in diesel, regular dredging in sea mouths, stopping of draining chemical effluents from industrial units into the sea, ending alleged misbehaviour of forest department and coast guard officials, and formation of a fishermen welfare fund.

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The protestors from Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts, wearing blue caps and waving blue flags, assembled at Mahatma Gandhi Marg and alleged that the state government ignored their genuine demands.

“Our lives have become miserable as we have to buy diesel at Rs 94 a litre for operating the fishing boats,” the president of the Odisha State Fishermen Federation, Srikant Parida, said.

“Fishing in rivers and the sea is our only source of living. Unfortunately, we have to leave the waters and take to the streets because of the government’s apathy,” he said.

Demanding subsidies on diesel, the agitators claimed that at least seven coastal states are providing diesel subsidies to fishermen.

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“There is no such provision in Odisha. We have written many times to the government. But nobody is concerned about our plight, another agitator said. So, we have been forced to come to Bhubaneswar to press for our demands,” Parida said.

The agitators also demanded the inclusion of fishermen families in the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other social security schemes during fishing bans.

The state government bans fishing near the coast for three months, April 15 to June 14 every year, to protect brood fish and provide an undisturbed breeding ground.

The fishermen cannot work due to adverse calamities like cyclones and low-pressure areas. As many as 15 lakh families are victims of the state government’s apathy, they alleged.

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They also demanded dredging of river mouths. They said the fish catch has been dwindling due to the closure of river mouths. (PTI)

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