Fire accident in Andhra village reveals why fishermen have abandoned their houses

Fisherman loses house, livelihood in fire exposing how fishermen community have been opting to not live in their own concrete houses.
Fire accident in Andhra village reveals why fishermen have abandoned their houses
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On the morning of July 17, 60-year-old Narasimha Swamy, a fisherman in Chinna Karagraharam village in Andhra’s Krishna district, lost his only source of income-handmade fishing nets worth approximately Rs 40,000.  All of his fishing nets got burnt in a fire accident caused by a short circuit which occurred in his house after a short spell of rain.

Most of the fishermen in the community make nets by buying raw materials. Now, Narasimha, lost his couple of gill nets and cast nets which were crucial for resuming his fishing in the fire accident. 

A lawyer from Machilipatnam, Lankishetty Balaji, helped Narasimha with the groceries and utensils for his daily survival. Speaking to TNM, Balaji said, “The fisherman has lost everything when the house got burnt including clothes, utensils and fishing nets. We have helped them with the essentials but they still need help with fishing nets. I hope someone will come forward and help them.”

Narasimha had been living in a thatched house, despite having his own concrete house. But Narasimha’s living situation isn’t isolated, with many in the community also doing the same.

Chinna Karagraharam, a village in Pallipalem hamlet of Machilipatnam, has about 110 fishermen households, for whom the sea is just 500 meters away. Most of them have moved out of their concrete homes either to rented houses or to makeshift thatched houses, locals say. 

Speaking to TNM, the former Sarpanch, Venkateshwarra Rao, who is also a fisherman, said that all these houses were built in the year 1985 as part of a government scheme.

“For the last 35 years, all the houses were continuously being exposed to high saline levels from the sea. As a result, the houses have gotten severely damaged due to corrosion. Because of which, parts of the houses keep falling down suddenly. Fearing for their lives, people in our village are moving out of their own houses,” added Venkateshwarra Rao

He further alleged that during the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) rule, the government received funds of Rs 92 crores for the welfare of fishermen under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but the fishermen haven’t received any benefits from it. 

The fishing community has now pinned their hopes on the Jagan government’s promise of providing 30 lakh houses for the poor, which is expected to be completed by 2024. Though the fishermen have sent their applications, they are yet to receive the selection list and more importantly, have to check if they have been sanctioned a house, added the former sarpanch.

According to media reports, the first phase of construction of housing for the poor was launched in Visakhapatnam, Nellore and Kurnool districts on July 8. Krishna district, however, is not in the first phase.

Earlier, the Fisheries Department did take up housing plans for the fisherman but the same has now been transferred to the State Housing Corporation.

An official from the Fisheries Department in Krishna district said, “If the State Housing Corporation sanctions any house to a fisherman, then we would be giving them an additional amount of Rs 25,000 to Rs 75,000 for other expenses involved. As it is a coastal area, there will be high water logging, which is an added expense.” 

The official added that the fishermen from Chinna Karagraharam are eligible to apply for reconstruction of their houses which are close to 35 years old now and the Fisheries Department would be able to help them.

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