Fathima Babu says the fishermen community should stay united to protest the CRZ notification.

We are for development but with accountability Anti-Sterlite protest leader Fathima
news Interview Thursday, June 07, 2018 - 20:19

Was the brutal firing on the Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi a pre-planned move to silence the fishermen community and prevent them from raising their voices in the future as well?

The fishermen community certainly believes so. Activist-Professor Fathima Babu of the Anti-Killer Sterlite People’s Movement echoes the opinion. She says that the firing in Thoothukudi was a pre-determined step to silence the fisherfolk, prevent them from voicing dissent and opposing any projects or policies that would take away their livelihood.

The fishermen community is also protesting against the Coastal Regulation Zone notification 2018. They cite that it would pave the way for a rash of constructions, which in turn would impact marine and coastal ecology.

Read: ‘Draft CRZ notification harmful for Kerala’: Experts write to Environment Ministry

Fathima was in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday to speak at a workshop on CRZ 2018 organised jointly by Kerala Swathanthra Mathsyathozhilali Federation and National Fish Workers Forum (NFWF).

General Secretary T Peter along with marine experts including Dr KV Thomas, A J Vijayan and V Vivekanandan spoke at the workshop.

“The CRZ regulation would affect the livelihood of the fishermen community, it would simply cut out several eco-sensitive areas, for example the Vembanad Lake in Kerala. This means we are exposed to any kind of danger which they would like to impose on us. CRZ 2018 is not a proposal that the fishermen community or other communities who are not into fishing but live in coastal stretches, should accept. We can’t afford it because of the clauses,” Fathima tells TNM.

The notification is based on the recommendations of an expert committee. It was set up by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to review the CRZ notification, 2011. The fishermen community have been raising red flags that it would affect the lives and livelihood of the fishermen, as relaxing the norms in the name of development would prove to be disastrous. But apart from the community raising objections, the notification hasn’t yet become a topic of wide discussion or debate.

“It is not just about CRZ, it happens always. It is unfortunate that the masses or the educated class fail to understand what the far-reaching implications are, the intentions or the agenda in coming up with such things,” says Fathima.

She slams the idea of development that brings money to corporates. ““We are not against development, we are for development with accountability. But the very concept of development has been grossly damaged. The texture, the fabric of development has been torn to pieces. It’s now looked upon as anything that could bring money to corporates. It’s nothing to do with the government or its agenda. We believe that all the development projects should start from the ground and be for the masses. Do we have water? Do we have food for all? Do we have shelter? Are we living a healthy life, a happy life? All these are necessities of the common man. First, the government should address concerns related to it, then we should think of going to the sun or the moon. Hence, it’s important that the educated understand the implications of government proposals, policies and projects.”

Fathima adds, “But we tend to accept anything that brings money as development, that is a very wrong notion, very wrong perception. Indeed, it is a matter of pride that the fishermen are able to see the hidden facts, though they are not educated. By experience, by co-existing with nature, they have been able to understand what is wrong and what is beneficial.”

She believes that it’s the need of the hour to unite the fishing community across the country to oppose the notification. “We have to bring together the entire fishing community across the 8,000 plus kilometre coastal stretch of the country, National Fish Workers Forum is doing it. The whole community of fishermen should come together because the government, corporates are eyeing the coast for gains. They know about the wealth of the coastal region. The coastal wealth belongs to the people, but corporates think it can be easily taken away by offering bribes to leaders, politicians. We need to form big groups strong enough to fight, to save the interests of the fisherfolk, to save the country as a whole.”

She attacks the government’s attitude to create conflict among the fishermen community, by treating them as a dispensable commodity.

“The government has a way of looking at the fishermen community, of treating them as dispensable and fragmented. The government thinks they can easily cause conflict among them, split them up. But every fisherman is a leader in his own capacity,” she says.



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