Rs 400-Crore Balloon


Giriraj Singh’s promise to change Goa’s economy has no legs to stand upon

Is Goa’s economy really in for a fundamental shift? If Giriraj Singh, the Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying were to be believed, the state economy has to count no more on revival of mining and can look forward to finding an alternative in fisheries. He even announced Rs 400-crore “investment plan” for fisheries to make that transition possible. However, his announcement lacked a definite shape. The minister did not give details of the “investment plan”. He did not specify under what head the money will be flowing. Nor did the state government have a clear idea about its allocation, flow and schemes. Just a little inquiry reveals that the minister made a statement without any basis. An allocation of Rs 400 crore especially for Goa by the ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying is just not possible. The whole budget allocation for the ministry under the Union budget 2021-22 is Rs 1220 crore. Surely the ministry will not give Rs 400 crore, almost one-third of its entire kitty, to Goa!

For the past three years the central government has been working on plans to develop fisheries as a part of the perspective for development of blue economy. The ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying was created in 2019 in order to achieve the objectives under a single command for policy making and execution. The total allocation to the ministry was Rs 560 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 570 crore in 2020-21. Although the allocation for the ministry has more than doubled in 2021-22, there is nothing specifically in it for Goa. A major part of the allocation will go into the modernization and development of five major fishing harbours at Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Petuaghat. If there is any “investment plan” that Giriraj Singh was talking about it is the investment plan for the development of the five harbours. This investment plan is a part of the overall government objective of developing major and minor ports of the country. It is not the fisherfolk who are at the centre of port development. They are actually losers in the process of such development. Their areas of operations are going on shrinking as a result of development of major and minor ports. The government is making it worse for them by diluting CRZ restrictions to reduce the no-development zone on the coasts.

It is clear from the direction of the ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying that Giriraj Singh’s promise of developing fisheries as an alternative sector of employment in the wake of shutdown of the mining industry in Goa has no legs to stand upon. The fisherfolk are the engine of fisheries; without them there can be no development of fisheries. There can be development of ports, inland waterways and national highways but not of the fishermen. For the past three years the ministry of fisheries has been promising to develop inland fishing harbours and fish-landing centres along the banks of rivers and waterways. However, little sign of it is seen in Goa.

The Goan fishermen have been raising fundamental issues about encroachment by illegal fishers but the government has not taken any effective steps to stop it. All that the government has done is issue warnings that have proved no worse than empty threats for the organized forces engaged in illegal fishing. The market for marine exports is huge. The domestic market for fish is equally large. However, Goa has a very small share of both the markets. As a matter of fact, Goa’s own market is not fully supplied by Goa’s fishing.

 If fisheries has to emerge as an alternative sector of employment in Goa it has to expand exponentially. The expansion will not happen with the development of ports, inland waterways and Sagarmala highways. On the contrary, contraction will happen. The state government proposes to develop facilities for deep-sea fishing for Goan fishermen. It also proposes to set up a large wholesale market for local fishermen. Much more needs to be done to boost fisheries development and fish production in Goa for domestic and export
markets. And the minister has no special funds
for Goa.