Question is why the Ministry is delaying to implement the Court’s direction to prevent this deep-sea loot in Indian Territory by foreign trawlers?
Kerala High Court’s judgment on June 14, 2017, exposes the decades’ long loot of India’s sea wealth by foreign fishing trawlers by just paying Rs.10,000 per year for a vessel. The detailed judgment by Justices AM Shaffique and Anu Sivaraman shows how foreign trawlers catch tones of fish by a meagre fee and catch fish and transshipping to foreign vessels waiting in the deep sea. The judgment on a public interest petition filed by an activist MK Salim reveals how our agencies have no record or no monitoring of this deep-sea loot and also exposes the role of thugs and politicians in South India and Western India are patronaging these sea dacoities.
In November 2017, the petitioner approached the High Court again pointing out that the Ministry has not yet moved an inch on this regard.
This Rs. 10,000 per year paltry sum licenses are granted to foreign trawlers to fish in India’s Exclusive Economic Zones was granted by the Department of Fisheries under the Union Ministry of Agriculture. The judgment exposes that the Ministry of Agriculture has no data or no monitoring and having a lack of coordination with enforcement agencies in the sea. During the hearing, CBI also filed its report about their probes and found that many fishing companies were registered as foreign though the owners were actually Indians. The CBI’s report submitted to the High Court shows that many people in India is actually owning these foreign trawlers in covert ways and most of such companies have the same address in Chennai and other big ports in South India and Western India. The petitioner also pointed out that many of these fishing trawlers were patronaged by many powerful politicians in South India and Western India.
Expressing serious concerns on the Centre’s lack of knowledge and non-coordination these foreign trawlers, the High Court ordered that the Department should conduct an expert study and publish the study report in the Ministry’s website. After this June 2017 judgment, the petitioner MK Salim, many times approached many authorities in Delhi including Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh for speeding up the process as directed by the High Court.
In November 2017, the petitioner approached the High Court again pointing out that the Ministry has not yet moved an inch on this regard. The Petitioner alleged that the Centre was not acting due to the pressure from many lobbies involved in the deep sea trawling and ignoring the Court’s order and not yet even appointed a study committee on the “deep sea loot.” Initiating contempt of court procedures, ‘the High Court has now asked the Ministry of Agriculture’ to appear before it on December 5.
The Agriculture Ministry told the Court that according to their information annually around 500 to 700 tonnes of fish catch is happening
Coast Guard also reported to High Court during the hearing that they had intervened many times on the foreign trawlers transshipping the fish catch to vessels anchored in deep sea. The Government also admitted that more than 1100 trawlers were engaged in India’s sea territory as well as in the Exclusive Economic Zone by paying a paltry sum of Rs.10,000 per year for Letter Of Permit (LOP). After the scathing Judgment, the LOP issuing stopped by the Centre.
“There is no dispute about the fact that the issue raised by the petitioner is of great concern. Even according to the reports that had been filed before this Court, the procedure adopted was not transparent enough to ensure proper accounting of the sea wealth that was being caught by Indian vessels having LOP. The fact that the Government of India had decided to withdraw the LOP scheme by itself proves that the fact that the system of LOP Scheme was not successful,” said the Judgment
The High Court ordered that Ministry of Agriculture “shall constitute a competent committee to conduct an enquiry into the loss suffered by Government of India on account of misapplication or non-implementation or lack or procedural formalities in implementing the LOP scheme and a report shall be obtained within a period of six months which shall be published in the website of the Ministry and appropriate action shall be taken based on the said report.”
The Agriculture Ministry told the Court that according to their information annually around 500 to 700 tonnes of fish catch is happening. However, the Ministry could not answer satisfactorily to the queries of the High Court and it is expected that the actual fish catch must be much bigger.
Question is why the Ministry is delaying to implement the Court’s direction to prevent this deep sea loot in Indian Territory by foreign trawlers?
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.