Millennium Post

Various fish workers' forum to write to CM alleging atrocities by Forest dept officials

Kolkata: Various fish workers' forums in the state have decided to write to the Chief Minister seeking her intervention to check the alleged atrocities on them by a section of Forest department officials.
The small and traditional fishers of Sunderbans recently organised demonstrations against the Tiger Project authorities for their unjust and illegal order regarding cancellation and redistribution of 'boat license certificate' (BLCs) to be carried out by the forest department.
The movement has been initiated jointly by Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum, Sunderbans Matsyajibi Joutha Sangram Committee, National Fishworkers Forum. The fishing communities of Sundarban alleged that they had been subjected to harassment perpetrated by the forest and tiger project officials. The poor indigenous fishing communities were allegedly tortured since the imposition of Tiger Project in Sunderbans.
The Tiger Project occupied more than half of the total forest area of Indian Sunderbans and declared it as 'Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR)'. The project declared more than half of this huge area as 'core' and stopped all livelihood activities, including fishing, in the area. The rest of the area was declared as 'buffer' and only 923 boats were given license (BLC) to fish in it.
National Fishworkers Forum secretary Debasis Shyamal said that Sunderbans Reserve Forest situated in the other (western) part the forest had about 3,700 boats with BLC. Both these numbers have been grossly inadequate in comparison to the number of fisher folks and fishing boats operating in respective areas. Dry wood and shell collection was totally stopped. Honey collection was restricted by permits and all collected honey was to be deposited with the Forest department. All these were done without any consultation with the affected communities, let alone the question of taking their consent. The Forest department, bearing colonial legacy, treated the forest-dependent communities as beggars at their mercy. They were the lords and the forest people were their subject, or even worse, the forest people were trespassers on their own land. This gave rise to a severe and permanent conflict between the Forest department and the communities dependent on the forest for livelihood.
As the largest among the forest-dependent communities, the fisher folks have been bearing the brunt of the torture and harassment and have also been at the forefront of the struggle. Physical assaults, abuses, confiscation of boats, nets, permits or BLCs without any seizure memo, imposing of heavy fines, taking away the best catches of fish and crab, spoiling of drinking water and food of the fishers – the unjust and illegal acts of Forest department knows no bound. The fisher folks demanded that Forest department have to issue boat license to genuine fisherman living in area adjacent to the forest.

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