India’s fishermen offer to help guard coastlineDecember 19th, 2008 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Dec 19 (IANS) As old sea hands, fishermen across the country have resolved to keep their eyes and ears open for information that can help protect India’s nearly 8,000-km-long coastline but stress that their livelihoods should not be endangered in the name of security.”We’ve decided to volunteer our services to cooperate with the security forces and police to help guard the coastline by identifying strangers and foreign vessels that intrude into our national waters,” Harekrishna Debnath, chairperson of the National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), told IANS.
The resolution was passed Tuesday at the annual general body meeting of the NFF in Mandapam, Tamil Nadu.
Debnath, who is back to his base in Kolkata after the meeting, said the NFF has sought radio equipment from the central government to be vigilant after the Mumbai terror attack.
“In case we find anything suspicious in the coastal areas, we will need to communicate with the coast guard and the navy through the radio network, as we don’t get mobile network coverage at sea. If we are given radio equipment we can easily share our own information with the security forces,” Debnath said.
“We’ve already sent our resolution to the ministries of home and defence and agriculture, since it’s the nodal ministry for fishing,” he said, adding the proposal would also be sent to the Coast Guard and other security agencies.
According to intelligence inputs, the 10 Mumbai attackers had come via the sea. Although an elderly harbour official noticed their unusual behaviour and questioned their actions, he did not report the situation and was told by the men to mind his own business.
According to reports, the terrorist group sailed from an isolated coastal area near Karachi in Pakistan.
Debnath also pointed out that the NFF was worried about the security fallout of the terror attacks on fishermen.
“We caution the union government not to destroy the livelihood security of hundreds of thousands of fishermen by restricting fishing activities in the coastal zones of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in the name of security,” he said.
“We remind the government that the security of the country means the security of life and livelihood of its citizens together with its territory and material resources. The livelihood of fisherpeople in India should never be jeopardized in the name of national security.”
India’s fishing population is estimated to be around 3.7 million and the number of people, including fishermen’s families, who depend on this occupation is around 12 million.
Debnath said local people can provide the best intelligence and guard against foreign intrusion as was proved in the case of Kargil where local shepherds first spotted the intruders and reported it to the defence forces.
“We also need training to facilitate and improve the efficiency of vigilance along the vast coastline,” the NFF chairperson added. “It’ll help us work in tandem with the country’s security forces.”