KARACHI: The Sindh government has finally issued special cards that will give the Gizri fishermen access to the beach at Sea View.
These local fishermen had been without business for the past two weeks since the government closed down the beach after more than 40 people drowned during the Eid holidays. Of the nearly 400 fishermen of Gizri, Shireen Jinnah Colony and Keamari, 350 of them have been given special fishing permits while the remaining ones will be given cards in a few days.
"The issue is almost resolved," confirmed Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah, whose organisation has been leading the protest against the government for denying access to these fishermen. "The fishermen will go for fishing within a few days," he said.
A letter by the fisheries department has been issued to the South deputy commissioner, Mustafa Jamal Qazi, directing him to allow these fishermen registered with the department to fish. On the direction of Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Minister Jam Khan Shoro, the fishermen who fish with nets and hooks on a daily basis will be exempted from the ban imposed by the authorities.
"Now those who have identity cards can move to the beaches for their daily catch by showing their identity cards to the deployed forces," said Qurrat Mirza, the member of the PFF.
"We mobilised the coastal communities of the city to join the campaign for restoration of the livelihoods of fellow community members," Mirza explained. "We held meetings with the Sindh Fisheries Minister, the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the fisheries director-general to resolve the issue as the fishermen work as daily earners to feed their poor families," she said. These fishermen who use nets and hooks come to the beach on their bicycles but had been ignored by the fisheries department for years. "They never tried to get their licences," said Shoro.
Though fishing licences for bona-fide fishermen are available on nominal charges every year, the people from Gizri, Keamari and Shireen Jinnah Colony had no licences. Even now, the licences have only been issued to those people who have their national identity cards and know swimming well. "We understand it is the only source of their livelihood but we have to take steps for their own safety," said fisheries director-general Ghulam Muhammad Mahar.
The licence will also ensure these poor men get some benefits from the government. "Yes, now they would be entitled to compensation in case of any mishap," said Mahar.
The initial fees for registration is Rs10 while these men will be charged Rs100 every year to renew their licence. These fishermen are not being allowed into the waters since the start of Ramazan and they say they have been suffering a severe financial crisis. "Most of the people are selling their valuables," said a 55-year-old fisherman of Gizri, Muhammad Hussain. "I am happy that I have a legal document now." Hussain has been involved in the fishing business for the last 35 years. A fisherman hardly earns Rs200 per day, he said. Nevertheless, he said they are satisfied with their earnings.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th,2014.