Speakers tell discussion on marginalised fishers’ plight

Speakers at the discussion in the capital’s The Daily Star Centre yesterday. The Daily Star and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies organised the event jointly, with support from Manusher Jonno Foundation. Photo: Star

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Speakers at the discussion in the capital’s The Daily Star Centre yesterday. The Daily Star and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies organised the event jointly, with support from Manusher Jonno Foundation. Photo: Star

Fishermen across coastal belts fall into a spiraling debt trap due to inadequate cash and other supports during the fishing ban period, speakers at a discussion said yesterday.

Besides, the lack of a regulatory framework on labour rights and supervision has made them highly vulnerable to human rights abuse, they said at the discussion held at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.

The discussion was jointly organised by The Daily Star and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and supported by Manusher Jonno Foundation.

Rezwanul Haque Azam, senior officer and project coordinator of BILS, presented an assessment of the human rights status among the small-scale artisanal fishing communities in Barguna’s Patharghata and Cox’s Bazar’s Moheshkhali upazilas.

While the absence of a minimum wage, appointment letter, safe and hygienic work environment, accommodation, and treatment have caused immense suffering to the fishing labours, the borrowed money for going to the sea for fishing — known as Dadan — has thrown them into a never-ending debt trap.

The situation turns worst during the 220 days of fishing ban every year in different phases, according to the assessment.

Besides, the illegal intrusion by Indian fishing boats has been causing immense loss of marine fisheries in the country, thanks to the slack action taken by Bangladesh authorities, said Rezwanul.

Fishers and their families are also exploited in many ways due to illiteracy and lack of skills beyond fishing.

“Being illiterate and unskilled, fishers don’t have any work to earn a livelihood during the ban. The government’s safety net programme, on the other hand, is very inadequate,” said Mizanur Rahman Bahadur, advisor of Cox’s Bazar Fishing Boat Labour Union.

Currently, the government provides 80 kilograms of rice and Tk 5,000 for each fisher family.

“Besides, all families are not included in the scheme. Dadan is a very fearful trap, and so there should be specialised loan arrangements for fishers,” said SM Jakir Hossain, social welfare secretary of Jatiya Sramik Federation.

Noimul Ahsan Jewel, general secretary of Jatiya Sramik Jote Bangladesh, said, “Indian fishermen continue fishing during the ban in Bangladesh. They also chase away our fishing boats from Bangladesh’s maritime territory and catch tonnes of fish. They also get technological support from the Indian authorities.”

Golam Mostafa Chowdhury, president of Barguna District Fishing Trawler Owners Association, said fishers are not eligible for a bank loan as marine fishing is not recognised as an “industry” yet.

Speaking as chief guest, Ataur Rahman Khan, chief scientific officer (planning and survey) at the Department of Fisheries, said they will address these issues through government-level plans and policies.

Nazma Yeasmin, BILS director (research and development), made the opening speech, while Anwar Hossain, president of Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal, presided over the discussion. 

 



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