KOCHI: The Chamber of Kerala Sea Food Industry on Tuesday took out a protest march to the Marine Product Export Development Authority (MPEDA) office to press for various demands put forward by it.
Around 20,000 people participated in the march, which was inaugurated by A M Arif MLA.
The protesters demanded that monumental changes be brought in to the peeling shed industry which is at present in troubled waters.
“This will not only help generate income for the country but also increase the livelihood of the people,” said Arif.
The Chamber also urged the Union government to incorporate peeling shed labour as part of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme.
This, according to the Chamber, will fill the huge shortage of labourers being faced by the industry.
According to V P Hamid, president of the Chamber of Kerala Seafood Industry and chairman of the Samyuktha Samara Samithi, the peeling sector was doing fine till two years ago.
“Once the MGNREGA scheme came into effect in Kerala, thousands of our labourers started working under the scheme which included canal cleaning and other odd jobs at its disposal. If the government incorporates the peeling shed work under the MGNREGA, a huge section of workers will return,” he said.
P K Nasser, president of the Seafood Commission Agents Association, said: “If peeling shed is incorporated into the MGNREGA scheme, they are willing to pay the labourers extra income in addition to the daily wages under the MGNREGA.”
“The shortage of staff forced the closure of many peeling sheds across the state. Only those initiatives which generate at least `11,000 crore annually can save the industry,” he further added.
When the coir and cashew nut industries and agricultural sector faced a huge decline in the past, it was the marine export businesses which played the role of saviour.
“Both the Central and the state governments should do their best to save the sector as it is one of the backbones of the seafood industry,” the Chamber members said.
The other demands put forward by the Chamber included the need to consider the formation of Fisheries Ministry and setting up of new fluid treatment plants across the state.
Hibi Eden MLA, Sebastian Paul, T K Santhosh, M S Soman, B Suresh Kumar Vayalar, A Nissar, M A Siyad and K S Devdas were also presentat the inauguration of the march.