By: Dr L Murugan
The “fish” occupies a prominent place, not only in the cycle of evolution, but also in the stories of all the great ancient civilizations. Our Puranas speak of the Matsyavatara, the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The beautiful Sangam literature of ancient Tamil Nadu vividly describes the life of fishermen and curved boats (Akananuru). The Indus Valley excavations lead us to appreciate the prevalence of fishing-related activities in ancient India. India with its vast coastlines and mighty rivers is endowed with rich fishery resources, and fish and fishermen have, from the beginning, occupied a central place in our culture.
After independence, being largely a state subject, Indian fisheries developed at varying rates and in varying directions depending on the initiative, priorities and resources of the respective states. With little involvement or investment from the Center (reports indicate that total central government discards for the fisheries sector are as low as Rs 3,682 crore since independence until 2014), Indian fisheries are remained extremely neglected. The brave Indian fishermen continued to venture into the oceans, on rickety boats, with little support in terms of insurance, safety kit, credit facility, post-harvest support and marketing. After 67 years of independence, the sector which was an important source of food, nutrition and livelihood for millions of Indians, has been left adrift like a rudderless ship on the high seas.
The problems were numerous, and the stakes inexhaustible. To its credit, the BJP was aware of these concerns and declared its intention to address them in the 2014 Election Manifesto. and elected a decisive government at the Center, under the dynamic leadership of Narendra Modi, a leader who could understand the pain of this sector. , and the pulse of the nation.
The first and most important thing Modiji did was to bring the Centre’s attention back to the fisheries sector. The last eight years have seen the deployment of investments worth over Rs 32,000 crores in the form of Blue Revolution Scheme, Fish and Aquaculture Development Fund and PradhanMantriMatsyaSampadaYojana (PMMSY), in addition to numerous other initiatives.
These measures have removed bottlenecks and liberated the sector, following the mantra of “Reform, Execute and Transform”, which has ensured phenomenal growth in fish production in India from 102.6 lakh tonnes in 2014-15. to 147 lakh tons in 2020-21. Out of about 90 lakh tons of additional fish produced in 20 years from FY 2000-2001 to FY 2020-21, 45 lakh tons were added in the past 5-6 years. The fisheries sector grew at an average annual rate of 10% during the first five years of Modi’s government, compared to 5.27% in the fiscal year 2009-10 to 2013-14.
Delivering on his 2019 election promises, Prime Minister Modi established a separate Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy Industry, for a more targeted and holistic development of the fisheries sector, and in 2020 launched the PradhanMantriMatsyaSampadaYojana (PMMSY) with the highest investment ever from Indian fishing at Rs 20050 crore, under Atmanirbhar Bharat, giving impetus to ‘Vocal for Local’. PMMSY is proving to be the main driver in taking Indian fisheries to new heights. The program, by 2024-25, aims to exponentially increase the production, productivity and exports of fish products. It also plans to significantly reduce post-harvest losses and increase fish consumption in India.
Reforms and initiatives over the past eight years have seen the development and modernization of basic infrastructure in Indian fisheries, including the construction of new fishing ports/landing centres, the modernization and motorization of traditional fishing boats, ocean-going vessels, provision of post-harvest facilities, cold chains, clean and hygienic fish markets, two-wheelers with coolers and many more. Fishermen are provided with insurance coverage, financial assistance and a Kisan credit card facility. Fish producer organizations encourage a spirit of cooperation and increase the bargaining power of the fishing community.
Ease of doing business is rigorously sought. Digital India has drastically reduced the processing time for obtaining Sanitary Import Permits (SIPs) from 45 days to just 48 hours. The SIP requirement to import SPF shrimp broodstock from approved sources has been removed, helping hundreds of shrimp hatcheries. The government has also reduced import duties on many inputs needed for shrimp aquaculture, to promote their exports.
Our fishermen are our pride. The Modi government has worked continuously, with the motto “Seva, Sushasan and Gareeb Kalyan”, for the welfare and empowerment of fishermen and women. The sector is diversifying. Now, the women of Tamil Nadu work in the cultivation of seaweed, while those of Lakshdweep develop ornamental fishing. Our Assamese fishermen are developing river farming in Brahmaputra, while Andhra entrepreneurs are showing strong results in aquaculture, getting more harvest per drop. Young women entrepreneurs in the Kashmir valley set up cold water trout fishing units. Haryana’s saline lands are being used productively for fishing, turning wasteland into rich land.
New aquaculture start-ups are attracting talent, technology, finance and entrepreneurship to fishing, also ushering in a silent social revolution. A glorious sub-chapter of Indian fisheries, in the form of aquaculture, is being scripted, catapulting India to world leadership in shrimp production and export. India has become the 2nd aquaculture producer, the 3rd fish producer and the 4th exporter of fish and fishery products. Fish exports have doubled since 2013 from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 59,000 crore in 2021-22, with a whopping 30% increase this year, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, shifting the India brand from “Local to Global”.
With bottlenecks removed, technology infused, social assistance redirected to the real beneficiaries, entrepreneurship encouraged and women empowered, Indian Fishery has broken free from the shackles that have bound it over the past seventy years. With ‘SabkaSath, SabkaVikas, SabkaVishwas and SabkaPrayas’, the eight years of Modi government have laid a solid foundation for Indian fisheries. From there it can only grow, come back with more income and smiles on the faces of our fishing brothers and sisters.
The author is the Union Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy, and Information and Broadcasting.
(Courtesy of the Press Information Office)