Another pointer to govt bias towards influential quarters
Thousands of fishermen and their families in Sunamganj have for long been living on fishing in state-owned water bodies, popularly known as haors and bils, sprawling around the district. Moreover, legally, it is also their right to fishing in open water. But, regrettably, because of alleged complicity of the local administration, some influential groups known as water lords have continued to deny them the right over the recent years. As a result, solely dependent on fishing, about one lakh fishermen of the district have currently to live in huge hardship.
According to a New Age report on Saturday, under a 12-year project intended to improve the living standards of the marginalised fishing communities of the district and also to ‘ensure the best use of the resources’ available in those water bodies, the local administration has so far handed over the management of around 280 out of a total of 1,063 bils to the people reportedly having land less than 2.5 acres for community-based management. But, the lessees, who are not beyond question in terms of their compliance with the conditions mentioned as they admittedly include the outsiders as well as local people and understandably tied to the ruling quarters, have already established their control over the whole haor areas beyond the areas leased out to them allegedly with the help of musclemen. Worse still, like previous years, they are out to retain that control until the peak season of fishing from November to February. In other words, the real fishermen look set to get their access to fishing in those water bodies denied this year as well. Pertinently, all the water bodies in the area get submerged during the monsoon that begins in June-July, a period the fishermen usually do not go fishing, blurring their boundaries at least for the period which apparently helps the lessees in holding their aforesaid control beyond their specific areas. Overall, it is clear that a project meant for the helpless fishermen fails to deliver utterly. Besides, the whole episode yet again betrays the ruling quarters’ bias towards the rich and influential sections.
Encouragingly, however, as the district fisheries officer told New Age, the local administration in compliance with a government decision has begun to prepare a list of fishermen to provide them with identity cards which may, indeed, be a good step in the way to find out the real fishermen. The government, meanwhile, needs to seriously look into the allegations mentioned earlier and make a course correction, if needed, as regards ensuring the rights of the latter to have access to open water, not to mention bringing the culprits to book.
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