The fishermen in Rameswaram may have called off their protests against the state and Centre's 'apathy' to their plight at sea. But the week-long protests, fuelled by the shooting of a 22-year-old fisherman, allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, seems to have left quite an impact on the Tamil Nadu government. In the state budget for the year 2017-18, Rs 860 crore, has been allocated to the Fisheries Ministry.
The budget speech, which lasted for over two hours, was presented by Finance Minister D Jayakumar who also holds the Fisheries portfolio. According to the budget presented, the government will be building 5000 houses for fishermen, in accordance to its poll promise. In addition to this, relief for fishermen during non-fishing season has been increased to Rs 4500 per month from Rs 2700. The budget has also increased the Diesel tax exemption for fisherfolk from 15000 litres to 18000 litres per mechanised boat.
Leaders of the fishermen community tell The News Minute that they are overjoyed by the budget presented by the government. Several claimed, that the budget was like medicines to wounds they had suffered through the years. "There has been an answer to our protests. We have been given so much preference because the Minister holds the Fisheries portfolio as well," admits Bose. "The best announcement was the decision to give Rs 5 lakh each to 18 fishermen whose boats got damaged beyond repair in Sri Lankan custody. They will now be able to work towards building a future for themselves again," explains Bose, state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Meenavar Sangam.
In the budget which saw considerable time being spent on allocation to help fishermen, the government even promised to improve fishing potential by increasing coastal protection work. Finance Minister D Jayakumar, in his speech said that, "Coastal protection works in critical locations affected by sea erosion at a cost of Rs 20 crore with NABARD funding will be taken up in 2017-2018."
Welcoming the schemes, Emerite, President of the Visaipadagu Meenavar Sangam says, "This is a good budget for fishermen and the government has thought through it well. The diesel tax exemption will allow us to take our boats out longer without worrying about the costs. We are grateful to the Minister for keeping in mind all the demands that we had made."