Affected fishermen yet to receive VGF rice

Ban ends today; over 2,000 fishermen jailed, fined
Fishermen affected by the 22-day ban on Hilsa netting have not got the rice allocated for them under the government’s vulnerable group feeding programme as the restriction expires today.

Law enforcement agencies, during the embargo, however, punished over two thousand fishermen for allegedly fishing in rivers and coastal areas defying the ban that came into force on October 1, according to official data.

Fisheries department imposed the seasonal ban during the peak Hilsa spawning season to protect the egg-carrying mother fish.

The disaster management and relief ministry, 12 days after the ban was imposed, had allocated 7,689 tonnes of rice under the VGF programme for distribution among 3,84,462 fishermen in 25 costal districts out of 29 Hilsa zones. Each of the fishermen was to get 20kg rice.

But fishermen have complained that the VGF allocations were not distributed yet among them although the local people’s representatives had received the demi-official letters in this regard.

Fishermen’s representatives from the districts deprived of VGF allocations said that the marginalised fishermen were compelled to violate the ban for earning bread for their starving family members.

Barek Sikder, Jhalakati district president of Bangladesh Khudra Matshyajibi Jele Samiti, told New Age that none of the 1,460 listed marginal fishermen in the district received the rice until Saturday evening.

He complained that the union parishad chairmen were delaying distribution of the rice.

Earlier, the fishermen endured a four-month delay in VGF rice distribution after expiry of the last ban in June, he said.

Bhairabpasha Union Parishad chairman Nasir Uddin Ahmed in the district said that the VGF distribution had been delayed as the list of beneficiaries was not complete yet.

Bhola district’s Chandpur Union Parishad chairman Fakrul Alam also said on Saturday evening that distribution of VGF rice among the fishermen had not yet started.

Patukhali district president of the Samiti Abdus Salam Biswas said that no fishermen received the rice in the area although the ban would expire today.

According to fisheries department’s Hilsa cell control room, law enforcement agencies conducted 12,745 raids in 29 districts till Friday.

During the raids, 2,447 mobile courts jailed at least 2,216 fishermen, realised Tk 52.41 lakh in fines for violating the ban and seized around 56.54 tonnes of Hilsa and 494.16 lakh metres of banned fishing net, widely known as ‘current net’.

Quoting Barisal fisheries officer, our Barisal correspondent reported that 825 mobile courts fined the fishermen Tk 13.25 lakh till Friday.

The Samiti’s Barisal Sadar upazila president, Babul Talukder, said that no fishermen received the VGF rice allocated for them.

Our Munshiganj correspondent reported that 70 mobile courts held 178 fishermen for defying the ban till Friday, fined them Tk 2.22 lakh and jailed at least 91 of them.

Munshiganj District Fishermen Association president Amanullah Miah told the correspondent that fishermen of the district for the second consecutive year were left out of the VGF programme.

Coordinator of the Hilsa cell control room Ramjan Ali said that the government had allocated the VGF rice for distribution among the affected fishermen within the ban period.

‘It’s the local people’s representatives’ responsibility to distribute the rice among the fishermen,’ he said.
Since 2007, fisheries department has been implementing the ban during March-April and September-October to protect Hilsa fry (less than 25cm in length) and mother Hilsa.

Sadiqur Rahman

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