Cyclone Ockhi has led to a swirl of rudderless debates around us. We do not have the right technology mix to deal with a natural disaster no matter however we try to strengthen our disaster response system with a prompt warning system.
The fisheries sector in Kerala, with a coastline that stretches to about 600 kilometers, has suffered because of the primitive fishing technology still in use. The fisheries sector has stayed backward in Kerala because of an insistence on conventional methods and the absence of modernization.
Even sardines have become rarer in our marine waters, where more than 7 lakh fishermen seek their livelihood in about 8,000 vessels. These vessels cost Rs 8 lakh to Rs 12 lakh. They may be able to generate revenue of Rs 1 lakh or Rs 2 lakh in a voyage of five days. Five to 10 fishermen work in every vessel, and they would not be able to take home more than Rs 2,000 a day on average even if they get a decent catch.
Fishermen in the conventional sector are still deprived of computerized and concise weather forecast, on board radar, digital wireless systems, flare guns, life safety kits to survive in the sea for about 100 hours, energy biscuits and drinking water to use in distress situations.
Contrast this situation with the big trawlers. None of them sunk in Cyclone Ockhi. Their radars and powerful communication systems help them survive by receiving warnings in time and sending distress calls to the nearest commercial ship.
However, these mechanized boats would not be able to absorb all the fishermen in Kerala. The state has to organize fishermen in the cooperative sector and supply them with medium-sized boats with processing and storage capacity. Trawlers should be made to give a share of their profit to rehabilitate the fishermen who are willing to stop the use of the small boats.
Fishermen have to use double-decked fishing vessels that offer more stability. The government has to develop trawling as a business with every registered fishermen as partner. The State Navigation Corporation could buy the trawlers and supply them to the cooperatives.
(The writer is the secretary of the Kerala local self-government department. The views are personal.)