DURING the 1990s inflation began to increase in Pakistan at a rapid pace, so much so that now it has become almost unbearable for the common man or businessmen to bear costs.
Fisheries too, being an important national industrial sector, have faced its brunt. Though official subsidies, granted to the fishermen by way of restricted import and distribution by the Fishermen’s Cooperative Society (FCS), have been in vogue and mainly restricted to monopolised import of marine diesel engines and nylon twine by the FCS. But their benefits have not fully reached the fishermen due to reported manipulation of these duty – free items by vested interests.
Consequently, the fishermen still have to purchase these items from the black market, the cost of which reflects upon the operating and initial cost of fishing vessels.
Diesel, which is the exclusive fuel used for operating marine diesel engines to run fishing vessels, continues to be denied any subsidy at any time even though fisheries falls under the ambit of the ministry of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, which had been allowing substantial subsidy to agriculturists on operating elements like electricity for running tube – wells, fertilisers, agricultural machinery, seeds, etc.
The subsidised tractor scheme is still in vogue to help farmers reduce the initial and operating cost. However, it has not been so with the fishing sector which has seldom met with a sympathetic and benevolent look from the government.
To meet their livelihood, fishermen have to take longer cruises spreading over two to four weeks in the open sea in search of fishing grounds. Despite the 200 miles EEZ of Pakistan, the sea has become a limit for them because if they go far in the Sindh coast, they and their boats face the risk of being seized by the Indian navy. Alternatively, if they head for Balochistan, then they have to pay illegal gratification to ‘the mighty ones’ of the fishing area there. A fishing boat desiring to fish in Balochistan waters has to pay a bribe of up to Rs50,000 to the ‘mighty lord’ of the fishing ground sought for through his agents in Karachi.
Seemingly the government cannot afford to subsidise on fuel but it can at least do better on other essential fishing items and fishing trawlers that are so imperative for the uplift of our national fishing sector and the fishermen as a whole, as it is they who are the backbone of the fisheries sector and they rightly deserve consideration of their genuine pleas.
Will the government wake up and attend to the problems of fishermen and take immediate necessary measures to resolve them?