Govt survey after Cyclone Tauktae: 900 boats damaged, minister says working on compensation

Rupani had said the cyclone had caused extensive damage to boats of most of fishermen families and, in these difficult times, the government would pay them cash doles and extend all possible help to overcome losses on account of damages to their boats.

A week after Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced the government would compensate fishermen for damages due to cyclone Tauktae, an ongoing survey by the state fisheries department has reported more than 900 damaged fishing boats even as uncertainty prevails over the amount of compensation.

During his visit to Jafrabad harbour in Amreli district on May 20, Rupani had said the cyclone had caused extensive damage to boats of most of fishermen families and, in these difficult times, the government would pay them cash doles and extend all possible help to overcome losses on account of damages to their boats.

Following the CM’s announcement, the fisheries department had launched a survey to assess damages to boats and loss of lives in the 13 fishing harbours on southern Saurashtra coast, including Jafrabad, Shiyal Bet and Chanch harbours in Amreli district, and Ghogha, Sartanpar and Mahuva harbours in Bhavnagar districts. The survey scope also includes Veraval, Sutrapada, Madhvada, Kotda, Nava Bandar, Saiyad Rajapar and Simar harbours in Gir Somnath district.

“Around 80 per cent of survey work is over and, so far, 917 boats are reported to have been damaged by cyclone Tauktae. They include 534 in Amreli district, 352 in Gir Somnath and 31 in Bhavnagar,” a senior officer of fisheries department told The Indian Express.

Under three heads

Sources said the survey teams were recording damages under three heads — partially damaged fishing boats, fully damaged boats and deaths of fishermen.

An officer said that scores of boats out of 917 identified, so far, were fully damaged. At least four fishermen reportedly have been killed in Jafrabad.

“We have no guidance about what will be the scale of compensation. All we have been directed is to assess damage under three heads, compile a report and submit it to the government,” another officer of the fisheries department said.

Tauktae had made landfall near Una in Gir Somnath on May 17 as an extremely severe cyclonic storm with wind speed gusting up to 185 kilometres per hour. The squally winds accompanied by torrential rain and tidal surge in the sea had caused large-scale damage on the southern Saurashtra coast, including in fishing harbours. Jafrabad harbour, in which around 700 fishing boats were anchored, had seen extensive damage with fishermen leaders pegging the number of partially damaged boats to 250 and that of fully damaged to 50.

After the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told the media that survey was still ongoing. “The fisheries industry, too, has suffered extensive damage and survey is ongoing to assess damage caused to small and large boats. The government will pay appropriate compensation,” an official release quoted Patel as saying.

Fisheries Minister Jawahar Chavda, however, said that government is taking time as paying compensation as per old rules may not be sufficient in present times. “Gujarat has not been hit by such a powerful cyclone in recent times and damage to fishermen, especially in Jafrabad, is huge. We are considering positively the demand for compensation by fishermen. But if we were to pay them under the existing schemes, the compensation could be paltry in the range of Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 which may not be sufficient in this case. Therefore, we are working on a new compensation scheme, hence we are taking some time before announcing the slabs of compensation,” the minister said.

Chavda said he will visit Jafrabad on Friday and, after following due process, an announcement would be made within a week.

‘Compensate us fairly’

However, the fishermen leaders apprehend their losses may not be compensated fairly. “The government compensates farmers for loss of their crops on account of natural causes. This time round, the government has proposed to compensate horticulture farmers also. We are glad about this. But we, fishermen, risk our lives every day to go to sea and do fishing. Fishing boats are central to our lives and we have been fighting with this government to be treated at par with farmers in respect of damages caused by natural causes. But never in history has the government compensated fishermen against damage to their boats,” Tulsi Gohel, president of Gujarat chapter of Akhil Bharatiya Fishermen Association (ABFA), said.

“While we do not have any official communication, messages are doing rounds that those whose boats have been damaged fully will get Rs 9,000 and Rs 2,300 for partially damaged. If this is true, it will be an insult to fishermen as a fishing trawler costs an average Rs 50 lakh,” he added.

Gohel, who is also president of Samyukta Macchimar Boat Association of Veraval, said after the cyclone hit Saurashtra coast, he and other fishermen leaders had visited various harbours in Gir Somnath and Amreli districts. “The damage has been the largest scale in Jafrabad where around 250 boats have been partially damaged while 50 have been lost completely,” he said.

Fishermen lost around three months of fishing to cyclones Vayu, Kyarr and Maha in 2020, he said. “Around 20 boats were damaged by Vayu in Veraval last year. We made repeated representations to the government for compensation but to no avail,” Gohel said.

Veraval is the largest fishing harbour in Gujarat with more than 4,800 boats are registered. Gohel said Tauktae has damaged five boats fully and capsized three others.

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