An interview with T Mohan, Chennai who along with several activists has been struggling for fishermen’s right under the banner of Coastal Action Network (CAN). He’s been associated with CAN for more than 10 years.
The Government did not respect the CRZ law. CRZ law was formed in 1991 but then no one respected this law. Several groups approached the Supreme Court. Following demands made by several groups in 1995 the Supreme Court ordered all the states with coastline to protect fisherfolks’ livelihood and the coast.
Government pulls out CRZ law from cold storage
“After tsunami the Government has pulled out the CRZ law from cold storage. It is demanding that the people should not live on the coast through half-baked logic.”
The Indian coastal area was divided into four zones. The coastal area where most fisherfolk villages are located falls under the CRZ III category.
“According to the CRZ law, the fishermen living in this zone between 200 meters to 500 meters have the primary right to live and expand their area of work here. Others are not allowed to undertake any activity here.”
Government is the biggest violator of CRZ law
“Now suddenly after the tsunami, the Government is talking is talking about the CRZ law…is it to give fishermen their fundamental right to livelihood? No. It is to take away their rights.”
Spirit of the CRZ law?
In the past few years the Government has made several amendments to the original Notification of 1991. This has severely undermined the spirit of the law. These amendments made way for constructions all along the coastline endangering the coastal ecology and livelihood of fishing communities.
Government Order and CRZ law?
The Government Order says that for any house built within 0-200 meters government will not give any support. Others who are willing to move beyond 500meters will be given houses. On the other hand, these regions are being cordoned off for projects such as the prawn farms and resorts.
“In the Nagapattinam area people who saw the tsunami are scared to go back. This is because the prawn farms there had buns, which blocked their way to safer areas.”
M S Swaminathan Committee report
The M S Swaminathan Committee claims that the CRZ law has no scientific logic.
“M S Swaminathan report facilitates legalisation of all activities that so far defied the CRZ law from 2004 onwards.”
Right to coast
For the past 10 years T Mohan and other activists have been struggling, for fishermen’s right, under the banner of Coastal Action Network.
“Like adivasis have right to live in forests similarly fisherfolk have the right to live in the coastal areas.”
“Like how the farmers have fed the rest of us, so have you. The government is only paying you back for feeding people for generations. This is not alms but your right.”