Fishery markets are one of the most densely populated areas in Maharashtra. With the initiation of the lockdown and need for social distancing, business in 61 state and 40 local fish markets came to a halt, completely disrupting the lives of the fisheries community in Mahim Fishing Village. Over 3500 fishermen and vendors had no means of earning necessities for themselves. Fisherfolk were also unaware of the steps to take to ensure their own safety and well-being. In addition, there was a lingering sense of fear since the first death in Maharashtra due to COVID-19 was of the chairperson of the fish cooperative.
Market representatives of the fisheries community took up the task of informing people about social distancing guidelines, different government schemes and the means to get additional information from governments and official sources such as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organisation.
Ujwala Tai, one of the executive board members of fisheries’ union of women called “Daryavardi Mahila Sangh”, and Madhuri Tai took the initiative of approaching Vrutti, a livelihoods nonprofit that agreed to help the community. Vrutti provided to 3000 families grocery and relief items, which have been used for the past 30 days. Local representatives in Koliwada managed to collect food for roughly another 500 families in their respective localities.
Madhuri Tai and Ujjwala Tai, among others, are curating a database of bank account details and Aadhar Card information for the women in fisherfolk families so that they can leverage the financial aid sanctioned by the government. So
far, they’ve compiled data for nearly 3500 women.
In these difficult times, members of this community have been supporting each other, and are proactively sourcing medicine and medicinal supplies to help themselves and migrant fishermen. They typically do not have much food for themselves and are foreign to packaged food. However, they continue to collaborate and persevere, aptly reflecting their belief: “We are the people of the water, we don’t give up easily.”
Contributors -Aniket Gupta, Ronak Parhi, and Girija.