23 November, 2020

A People Still At Sea

Money, housing, relief material, tools of trade... governments and civil society pitch in to rehabilitate the tsunami-hit fisherman. But can they give him back life as he knew it?

A People Still At Sea
When Baskaran, a fisherman in Nochikuppam, Chennai, is asked what the fisherfolk normally eat for breakfast—is it gruel with dried fish?—he gets angry. "We are not poor people to eat kanji (rice gruel)," he says. "We are rich. We used to eat idlis or dosa with korma for breakfast. We lived the good life."

Baskaran’s midway lapse into the past tense may be a cruel twist inflicted by the tsunami, but few helping him today can understand the reality he lived by. Like the adivasi who is in a symbiotic relationship with the forest, people like Baskaran too live by and subsist on the forest they call the sea. But, for a civil society ignorant of fisherfolk ways, the best of efforts and the most honest of intentions are falling woefully short of giving them back what they have lost.

Not that there is any dearth of effort on the part of the government or the civil society. Till last count, 8,90,885 people were deemed affected in Tamil Nadu. The government has promised Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of each of the 7,921 people declared dead. By January 2, most families in...



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