In the last one year I have extensively travelled in states both on the eastern and western coast of the country. I have visited a number of villages in different districts of each state and have interacted in great detail with ordinary fishermen and fisherwomen.  During my visits I had an opportunity of breaking the barriers of language, religion and social customs and to meet and discuss various issues related to the life, livelihood, economy, education, health, social and political spheres of the fishing community. These discussions were done both individually and collectively with a wide cross section comprising of ordinary members, the well educated and leaders of the community, as well as the exporters, traders, members of federations, and political representatives in various bodies including the legislature etc. There were very large gatherings and also small group meetings organized in formal and informal ways. In all these places, I was mostly accompanied by office bearers of BJP and local party activists accompanied me. Meanwhile, the Party’s  Fishermen Cell at the national level had taken initiative and organized national conventions of marine fishermen at Vishakhapatnam on 7&8 Dec 2010 for the East coast states and at Mangalore on 29&30 April 2011 for states of the West coast. The deliberations in these conferences and the formal as well as informal discussions in them have immensely enriched me and have improved my understanding.

My connection with fishermen issues dates back to 1995-96. It was the period when the community was facing a major threat to their livelihood due to the entry of big fishing trawlers from foreign countries into deep sea fishing. As the all India organizing secretary of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, I had taken the lead in organizing various protest movements including the very popular ‘Yatra on the boat’ both from east and west coast culminating in Trivandrum. The government of the day constituted the Murari Committee and had to eventually cancel the licenses given to multi national companies thus saving the traditional Indian fishermen.

India has a population of more than two crores in the traditional fishing occupation employing millions of men and women directly and indirectly. The fishermen population is very dense all along the coast line, riverbanks and around all water bodies. After the agriculture and the handloom sector this is the biggest traditional sector and plays a very vital role in sustaining our economy. This avocation like all other traditional sectors is completely integrated, and is family and community driven. While men are involved in actual fishing, in boat and net repairing, women from the family are engaged in processing and marketing, the young assist both, in all of these activities. In India we have a very hard working fishing community with evolved skills in managing different crafts, processes and large pool of traditional knowledge about seas, resources, climate and markets. We have so many castes in all of these states that have taken up this activity in the traditional way. They are categorized differently in different states. Somewhere they are designated as schedule castes, in some provinces they are notified as scheduled tribes but in most of the states they are identified as backward class. In terms of higher and technical education and also female education these communities stand far below compared to the national average. Today, after observing their low level of education one can conclusively say that they constitute the bottom of the social ladder in overall development.