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Fish Out Of Hands

A fisheries corporation can make cheap and safe local fish available

A proposal to set up a fisheries corporation is hanging fire with the state government. The idea was to have a dedicated apparatus to help the fishing community sell their catch easily and supply fish to consumers at reasonable prices. Former fisheries minister Vinod Palyekar says Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has rejected the proposal, though the incumbent fisheries minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues says Sawant had only put a “regret” remark on the file which did not amount to rejection and a corporation could still be set up. Palyekar is batting for the fishing community and Goan consumers, saying Sawant’s “refusal” to accord approval went against their interests. He reminds Sawant of his promise on the floor of the Assembly on July 10 this year that a fisheries corporation would be set up.

What made the Chief Minister to put on hold the approval to the proposal? Was it the fear that the new entity could meet the same fate as several other government corporations and fail in meeting the objectives and just end up being parking slots for politicians in the ruling camp who could not be accommodated in the ministry? The government has been running several corporations which for years have been running in the red. However, the Chief Minister should reconsider the proposal because the idea behind setting up a fisheries corporation appears to be good. Goans, who find vegetables too highly priced, can go to the outlets to which the Horticulture Corporation supplies vegetables. Likewise, a fisheries corporation could create outlets where fish can be available at subsidized/reasonable rates.  Fish is the staple diet of Goans. Prices of fish often register spikes depending on the supply to the market. Availability of fish at cheaper-than-market rates through government channels could provide relief to Goans. The government has been trying to sell fish at cheaper rates, but the efforts have not made a major impact. The government needs to expand the network through which it can reach cheaper fish to all parts of the state.      

The demand for fish has been growing in the state, with the rising domestic population as well as the rising number of domestic and foreign tourists to cater to whom hotels and restaurants make large purchases. A large quantity of fish caught by local fishermen is also exported abroad. Most of big fishermen sell most of their catch overseas as they get better returns. The shortage in supply often leads to steep increase in fish prices. Goans have been forced to pay constantly increasing prices to eat their staple food. With substantial fish being either sold to hoteliers or exported, the traders in fish have been importing fish from other states and selling it in local markets to meet the growing demand. However, some of the imported fish was found to have been preserved in formalin, a chemical known to cause cancer. A fisheries corporation could help local fishermen sell their catch for assured price through the government agency in the same way local farmers growing vegetables
are doing.

There are always risks in setting up a public sector organization, because politicians and civil servants have not proven to be good promoters or managers. Yet, the fact remains that the fisheries department is a government department, and only a fisheries corporation can fulfill the role of the kind the Horticulture Corporation is doing for the agriculture department. The Chief Minister should discuss the proposal for setting up a fisheries corporation threadbare. He is the leader and he has to only take care that the objectives of the corporation are clearly defined and right persons are appointed to run it. Maybe the Chief Minister does not want the government to take any new financial burden in view of the state’s economy not being in a happy situation. However, at the same time the state government should not desist from taking initiatives that would bring more happiness to the producers and consumers of fish in the state. The fish market is manipulated by a few fish traders. They do not follow standards and they use the slightest excuse to hike fish prices. A fisheries corporation could change the rules of the game by procuring and supplying fish from
local fishermen.

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