Medha Patkar flags off fishermen's march in Mangaluru; calls Modi govt anti-nature

Social activist and environmentalist Medha Patkar yesterday flagged off a 10-day boat-march from Old Port in Mangaluru to Thiruvananthapuram. The march was jointly organised by the National Fishermen's Forum, Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federaton (Kerala Independent Fishermen's Federation) and Karnataka Coastal Fishermen's Action Committee, to urge the union government to fulfill their demands.

Addressing the gathering at the formal ceremony, Medha Patkar pointed out the challenges the fishermen faced everyday.

'The fishermen have fought not one but many battles in the past many decades. They have shown to the world what unity is, and what a unionised struggle is like. We are the real witness of the fishermen who waged struggle, fought and won,' said Patkar.

''The fishermen collectively waged struggle and fought with the government to cancel licences to 200 foreign fishing vessels. People protested and held several hunger strikes. We have to salute them. It is your battle and fight that saved the beautiful coastal line, the fish is the source of livelihood which you live with. Even today unity is needed to safeguard the rights of the fishermen,'' said Medha.

''The UPA-led union government formed the Murari Committee because of the pressure from fishermen. But it was Ram Nayak, Ram Vilas Paswan and other political leaders who supported the fishermen's rights,'' Patkar said. ''There are ministers who are ready to come forward and protect the rights of the fishermen,'' she added.

Meanwhile, Bangalore Mirror reported that Patkar criticised the Narenda Modi government calling it a government against nature.

"The union ministry of environment has given clearances to 240 projects in the first hundred days of the Narendra Modi government. This indicates their goals and their ways of achieving them," Patkar said.

As regards the proposed amendments to the five Acts related to environment, she said the government was not keen on taking measures that would safeguard the environment but wanted to give a free hand to the corporates.

"Minister Prakash Javadekar, I am told, during a meeting of industrialists in USA, was questioned by the press as to whether he was an environment minister or the industries minister," she said.

According to Patkar, the government's heart was not with the people who lived with natural resources and it felt that there should be no sanctions to development projects at all.

"So they may revert back the 1994 and 2006 notifications anytime. The committee that they have appointed is no good and the real consultation should have been with local people with respect to each project. The new Land Acquisition Act 2013 had given some hope. But union minister Arun Jaitlely has now made a statement that they want to revert back to the laws of the British regime. We do not have any details of global agreements as there is no transparency and all those agreements and projects resulting out of those will affect farmers, fishworkers, Dalits, Adivasis," she said.

Patkar said the Narmada project was in a big crisis today. She blamed the union government for violating norms while raising the height of the dam.

"About 2.5 lakh people will face a watery grave. The project is worth Rs90,000 crore. Only 20 per cent water is to be used in Gujarat and that also mainly for the Adanis and Ambanis. Now many in Gujarat who were not supporting us realise that. The first decision of the prime minister on the issue was to raise the height of the dam by 17 metres. Since the last eight years work on the dam had been stopped and this decision is in violation of Supreme Court's judgments. And he could do that because they feel very confident now they can do anything against any law and judgments. But we are in the Supreme Court. We will plead. We are also in protest. We will soon be starting the Narmada Sangharsh Yatra from Madhya Pradesh to Delhi. On 1 and 2 December many national organisations will meet in Delhi and we will raise various demands and touch several issues as a secular force," she said.