Responding to weeks of agitation by fishermen against the hike in diesel prices for bulk consumers, the Ministry of Petroleum has decided to revert to the earlier subsidised rates of Rs 43 per litre. The announcement was made on Wednesday.
Now, the fishermen have decided to get back to business. Their protracted strike of almost 20 days has kept fish lovers on tenterhooks, and affected incomes of almost eight lakh families who are dependent on the business for their livelihoods.
MiD DAY had reported how fishermen had pulled their boats off seas in protest of the hike in diesel rates for bulk consumers (‘No fish in the market? Blame diesel prices,’ January 30). The rates had shot up by a whopping Rs 11 for consumers who buy more than 2,000 litres a day, from Rs 43 to 54.62. Even though the government lowered the hike to Rs 4, fishermen continued to agitate. The strike had started affecting supply for local vendors and hoteliers.
About 11,000 mechanised boats that run on diesel in Maharashtra have not been not venturing into the sea since January 18, causing revenue loss of almost Rs 2 crore that was generated by import and export of fish every day.
Damodar Tandel, president of the Akhil Maharashtra Macchimaar Kruti Samiti, said, “We have taken back the strike only after the Petroleum Minister declared via the electronic media that we would be given diesel at subsidised rates. We are still awaiting the formal letter telling us that we would no longer be considered bulk buyers.”
Vijay Worlikar, vice-president of the National Association of Fishermen and Maharashtra Koli Mahasangh, said, “We have called off the strike and are allowing the boats to resume fishing but we will only be happy once we get the letter, and another letter is delivered to diesel companies who sell diesel to us. We are calling off the strike to show respect to the minister, but the confirmation is awaited.”