Families of deceased fishermen await promised ex gratia from Jagan government
Mosa Kanakaraju (54), a resident of Aminabad in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh was out fishing at sea in his small boat, along with two of his sons, on December 2, 2020. As he cast his net into the waters, he lost his balance and fell overboard. Despite trying their best, Kanakaraju’s sons couldn’t rescue him. The accidental death made the widow of the fisherman, Mosa Laxmi, eligible for ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh under the YSR Matsyakara Bharosa scheme – an amount that could never compensate for her husband’s life but would be a big help to her family. However, over a year since applying for the ex gratia, the money has not been released to the family.
Mosa Kanakaraju who died in a fishing accident on December 2, 2020
Speaking to TNM, Mosa Rambabu, the eldest son of the deceased fisherman, said, “We have followed up several times with the officials in the Fisheries Department. The claim was sent from the district and was also sanctioned for release but we did not receive the money. My mother too visited the office several times. They keep assuring us that the money will come. Last we were told that the file is in the Finance Office,” said Rambabu.
Rambabu’s family are not the only ones awaiting the release of ex gratia – nearly half the claims under the YSR Matsyakara Bharosa scheme are awaiting sanction of the eligible money. Speaking to TNM, Kanna Babu, Fisheries Commissioner, revealed, “The department has received 116 total claims [from November 2019 to January 12, 2022] out of which 64 have been settled by sanctioning Rs 5 lakh each. The remaining 52 are yet to be cleared. The claims from April 2021 are awaiting clearance.”
The YSR Matsyakara Bharosa was launched by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy in November 2019. The scheme enhanced the existing Rs 5 lakh ex gratia that was being given to the families of deceased fishermen to Rs 10 lakh. Explaining the process, a Joint Director of Fisheries from one of the districts said, “Before the launch of this scheme, the deceased fishermen’s families were eligible for only Rs 5 lakh. After this scheme was launched, in the case of death, the fishermen’s families are now eligible for a total of Rs 10 lakh, Rs 5 lakh from the fisheries department and Rs 5 lakh from the labour department.”
All fishermen between 18-60 years of age are eligible for the ex gratia in the case of accidental death while at sea. Under this scheme, they are also extended other subsidies and financial assistance. The scheme provided a diesel subsidy for fishermen and financial assistance during the annual fishing ban period between April and June.
Government release pending
When asked the reason for the delay in clearing the claims, Fisheries Commissioner Kanna Babu said, “The claims have not been settled as the budget was not available under the ex gratia account. Re-appropriation proposals were submitted to the government. The money is yet to be released by the government.”
TNM also reached out to Joint Directors of Fisheries Departments from several districts to understand how many claims were pending in each of the districts respectively. Srikakulam Fisheries Department has received the highest number of claims so far (28) of which only 10 have been cleared. Visakhapatnam has received 20 claims of which 10 have been cleared. West Godavari received 5 claims of which only 1 has been cleared. Vizianagaram received 11 claims of which only 4 have been cleared. And all of the 5 claims that Guntur district has received remain cleared. Clearly, across the majority of districts, the number of claims cleared was less than the pending number of claims.
When asked about the delay in clearance of the claims, the Joint Directors in the districts revealed that the delay was from the side of the state government. “As soon as we get the claims, we check the details and then forward it to the Commissioner of Fisheries. The department is sanctioning the release, however, the government has not been releasing the funds for the same,” revealed one of the Joint Directors.
“A committee was set up to ensure the process is smooth and the money is released within three months. However, there was a delay in clearing the claims, especially last year,” revealed another Joint Director. “The families keep asking us and following up with us about their claim. We assure them that they will receive it but over time they get anxious and restless about the same,” added the same Joint Director.
TNM reached out to Buggana Rajendranath Reddy, the Finance Minister of the state to enquire whether the state’s financial situation had anything to do with the delay in the clearance of claims. He said, “The entire country and in fact the whole world is going through a financial crunch now and we are also among them. But no welfare scheme or help extended to beneficiaries, especially in the case of death, has been stopped. There may be some technical issue with uploading the claims or bank linkage etc.”
“Unless a particular department follows up with the Finance Department things don't move. However, since it has been brought to my notice I shall check with the department about the pending claims,” said the Finance Minister.
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