The Machhimar Nagar Society in Colaba is in turmoil over the Fadnavis government’s Shivaji Memorial. There is a clash between two major fishermen’s associations in the area over the upcoming project.
Speaking to a Bayside Journal correspondent, Damodar Tandel, President of Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti said, “I am fighting for the rights of 1 lakh fishermen and 25,000 families,who will be losing their livelihoods due to this well-publicised and advertised project of the Shivaji Memorial. I have been actively fighting for the rights of our fishermen since 2004. I was invited by Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to discuss our issues and come up with a concrete solution. But I didn’t meet him because the ministers’ assurances only remain on paper.”
Krishna Kumar Meher, President, and Jayesh Bhoir, Vice President of Machimar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society, have a different story to tell. According to them, “More than 3000 members are associated with this organisation. It’s one of the oldest and also supportive associations that provides diesel, loans, nets, and other required equipment to the fishermen and boat owners. More than 350 boat owners, big and small, are associated with us.”
Bhoir said, “It’s good that Damodar Tandel is raising his voice for the rights of fishermen in the society. If the chief minister is calling for a meeting and Tandel is rejecting the offer, it shows him in an egoistic light. This behaviour will not help us to get our rights. We need to unite and forget all differences.”
Few youngsters in the society have formed their own association known as Macchimar Yuva Samiti and they are trying to bring the heads of the other associations to unite. This association is yet to be registered.
A member of Machhimar Yuva Samiti said, “If both the associations will separately fight in their own way, then we will not be able to gain anything. We will need to unite and fight. We are therefore planning to bring Damodar Tandel, Krishna Kumar Mehera, Jayesh Bhoir, and all the fishermen and boat owners together. We will be holding a meeting in the second week of January and will plan further action to put forward our demands in front of the CM Devendra Fadnavis.”
Paresh Tandel, a young fisherman said that as soon as he heard of the government’s plans to build the statue, he thought it better to discontinue his profession of fishing, and bought a vehicle instead. He is a driver now and has been earning pretty well. However, he still plans to fight for the fishermen’s rights.
Vijay Meher, 38, a fisherman since the last 18 years said, “The hutments where we are staying right now will be demolished and we will be sent to some transit camp. We will be unable to go to the sea without the permission of security personnel appointed by the government. It will be really difficult for us to do our business after the statue is erected.
Tushar Tandel, 25, who has been fishing since the last 5 years said, “The government has promised us employment after the construction of the memorial comes. But it’s just a verbal promise and can be turned down any time. We are very worried about our business, home as well as our families that will bear the consequences of this development.”
Another fisherman who supports his aged parents by his profession said that they will have to move their boats when tourists will be transported by the ferry. “Where we will take our boat and what about the fishing? Many fishes and crabs will be destroyed due to the ferry.”
Manoj Tandel, 38, is worried about the security measures for tourists who will be visiting the memorial and said, “As of the now there are lots of security measures for fishermen. But what mechanism will they be using for the safety of tourists who are visiting the spot.”