Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, (Kerala)

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Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (Inland) (SMTF-I)

  1. Name of the Organisation: Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (Inland)
  2. Address: PO – Parumala, Taluka – Thiruvalla
    Dist – Pathanamthitta, State – Kerala
    PIN – 689626
  3. Nature of the Organisation: Union
  4. Year of Establishment: 16.02.2019
  5. Registration Number: – Under Process
  6. Name and designation of the office bearers: (2019-2024)
    a. President: P P John
    b. Vice President: Jolly Antony, Joy Alumpadan.
    c. General Secretary: Babu Leyons.
    d. Secretary: Thankachan C J
  7. Coverage Area: Kerala state
  8. Members : Membership collection has started.
  9. Focussing Areas: The organization focuses on –
    • Pressurising the governments and local self government bodies to pass resolutions for rejuvenation of the back water and inland water bodies.
    • Strict laws and acts to prevent pollution of water bodies
    • Strict execution of CRZ in the inland water bodies
    • Prevention of the conversion of Agriculture farms to fish Farms
    • Passing rules and regulation in the fish farming sector
    • Regulation of unauthorised fishing and tools
    • Encouraging developing of infrastructure to facilitate marketing and preservation.
  10. Organizational History :
    Kerala’s fishing wealth comprises of long sea shore and wider inland water wealth. According to the 2011 senses 3.1% of the population are engaged in the fishing sector and they reside in 222 fishing hamlets. Among these hamlets 113 are in the inland sector. Around 2.37 lakhs out of 10.29 lakhs fish workers belong to the inland sector.
    But, most discussions around fish workers are based on fishing at the coastal regions and individuals engaged in deep sea fishing and other coastal fishing methods. Unfortunately people give less regard to the backwater fishing and the challenges involved in fish vending carried out by women. Even while forming new acts, policies and welfare schemes, fish workers from inland sector are given less preference.
    On 19th January, 2019 more than inland fish workers from 10 districts of Kerala came together and planned for a new mode of operation. A convention was organised to form a new organization that focuses on the issues of inland sector especially in Kerala. On February 16th, 2019, the representatives from inland fishing community from 14 districts gathered at BPDC hall Thiruvalla and formed Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (Inland) SMTF (I).
    The prominent focus areas of the organisation include:
    • The right over the water bodies ,
    • The depletion of fish wealth,
    • Industrial pollution of water bodies,
    • Invasion of big fishing vessels over small scale fishers,
    • Unscientific fishing like trawling and
    • Lack of welfare schemes or supports from Government.
    The organisation also emphasised on researches and new mode of technological inventions to
    support fish workers.
  11. Main Activities with Highlights:
    • SMTF (I) had organised a women’s convention at Thiruvala YMCA on 8th of March 2020 on International Women’s Day. The meeting was attended by several fisher folk community members. The resolution of the meeting advocated for safe working spaces and travel facilities for inland fisher folk women.
    • A women’s convention was organised on the 22nd of November 2019 as a part of the World Fisheries Day celebrated on November 21st. The convention was attended by several senior leaders from the inland fisher folk community. In the convention, a women’s collective was formed to address specifically the issues faced by them.
    • On 30th August 2019, SMTF (I) inaugurated new union in different parts of Kaduthiurthy and Kottayam districts. The union also discussed on issues such as social security and financial stability for fish vendors. SMTF (I) formed a future plan for organising unions in each market area.
    • An awareness rally was carried out in the Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Allappuzha districts of Kerala on May 27th, 2019 in order to create awareness among the inland fish worker about the several issues faced by them. The rally also brought together inland fishworker welfare board members and representatives of local self government bodies along with social activists and local politicians. The members of the rally recognised the alarming situations in the inland fisheries sector and spoke on it. Following the rally, a state leaders training camp for the inland fish workers community was organised the next day on 28th may, 2019 at Thiruvalla. This was organised to provide training to the inland fish workers community members and leaders to mobilise inland fish workers and to create cooperative societies among them. The training was carried out to provide awareness on collective bargaining.
    • A one day leadership training programme was held on 26th May, 2019 for grooming the second level leaders of fisher folk communities from different districts of Kerala. The programme comprised of personality development classes and training on new methods of fishing and fish processing. The youth from different districts went through a different experience and this training programme developed the esteem of the workers of this sector.
    • In the flood of 2018 most of the inland fish workers of Pathanamthitta district and Allapuzha district lost their boats and traditional fishing equipments affecting their livelihoods severely. In response to this the state government sanctioned rupees 10,59,600 for 99 inland fisherfolk community members to repair their boats and equipments. The district officials failed to provide the compensation to the fish workers. Following this on 15th May 2019 the inland fish workers carried out a Collectorate March in Pathanamthitta to protest against the injustice carried out against them. Around 150 members of Pathanamthitta district in land fisher folk community participated in the march.
    • The coastline between Chavara and Alappad in the Kollam district has a decades-long story of peoples’ battle for survival against mining companies. This stretch in Kerala is where the extensive mineral beach sand mining by Indian Rare Earth Limited (IREL) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML) has been happening since the 1960s. The abandoned buildings are the remains of peoples’ failed agitations and indefinite strikes. One by one, the fishermen villages in the area are vanishing from the map of Kerala. In Alappad panchayat, activists estimate that more than 6,000 fishermen families have vacated over the years due to beach erosion, drinking water scarcity and lack of fish availability. Fishermen say hamlet after hamlet was ‘disappearing’ from the map due to the mining activities by the IREL and KMML. They were demanding a complete halt of the mining activities. In January 2019, aggrieved fisherfolk from the coastal hamlets of Alappad gathered at a village called as Vellana Thuruthu and sat on a relay hunger strike which entered the 68th day in January 2019. SMTF (I) actively supported the fisher folk in their decade long battle against unsustainable mining and participated in all the agitations and rallies against mining.
    • SMTF(I) Kottayam District convention was held in Uduppy lodge Kottayam on 22nd March, 2019. 67 delegates had participated from different hamlets of fish-workers. The leaders from state committee attended the meeting and participated in the group discussion.
    The convention listed out the major issues of fish workers and also the alarming situations in the paddy fields and back waters. The convention took the following resolutions
    • To organise more unit committees in different hamlets
    • To organise trade union for women vendors of the area
    • To pressurise the local self government bodies to grant and supply fishing tool and subsidies to this sector.
    • The district convention of Alleppy was held in St. Joseph memorial hall on Ezhupunna, Alleppy on 17th march, 2019. Delegates, along with 26 female leaders from 78 hamlets joined the meeting. The issue of severe pollution of back waters by the industrial waste and local food processing units was raised and discussed upon.
  12. Concluding Remarks:
    The organization is concentrating on the following in near future –
    • To bring out a publication that narrates the ordinances, notifications and information on different aid from the government.
    • To work towards preventing cultivable lands from being converted into fish farms by huge corporate. Large fish farms are threat to the inland fish workers as their source of fish gets privatised and owned by larger companies.

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