Mumbai (The Hindu): With just a day to go for the inauguration, the Maharashtra government is locked in a bitter negotiation with the fishing communnity opposing the Shivaji memorial in sea. Till late on Thursday night, the fishermen maintained they were firm on the demand for it’s removal from sea and no amount of compensation from the government would deter them from staging a protest on December 24 when the Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for the memorial.
However, senior cabinet minsters said they hoped the Koli community would understand the significance of the historic event. The government is willing to compensate for marine losses, create job and hand over all tourism related contracts to the fishermen, they ministers said.
“The Chief Minister has assured them monetary compensation and jobs. We hope they (fishermen) will understand the significance of this event. A committee has been formed to look into the issue,” said PWD Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Chandrakant Patil.
Sources said the protest is led by three factions, the largest of these being Akhil Maharashtra Macchimar Kruti Samiti led by veteran Damodar Tandel, who is aligned closely with the Shiv Sena. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who will be accompanying the Prime Minister to the memorial on Saturday. “We have spoke to Uddhavji and requested him to speak to the fishermen on this issue,” Education Minister Vinod Tawde added.
Mr. Tandel, however, was firm on his demand. “Chandrakant Patil and BJP have filled their coffers with money; but they cannot buy us. Even if I have to leave the Sena, I will do so,” he told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, another faction, the Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti (MMKS) also held meetings with Chief Minister and Mahadev Jankar, Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries Development.
“The Government is trying to persuade us that if we protest, Prime Minister will get the wrong message about Mumbai’s fishing community. But we are firm on our decision as it is the matter of livelihood of fishermen community,” said Leo Colaso, president of MMKS.
“While fishermen are demanding to stall the ceremony, it is made clear from the government’s side that there won’t be any change in the scheduled programme day or the location of memorial,” added Mr. Colaso
In September, The Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti filed a public interest litigation (PIL) with the National Green Tribunal, Pune, accusing the Maharashtra government, Union environment ministry, Mumbai Port Trust, and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) of getting environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances for the project without consulting citizens.
“The status of the case is pending as the National Green Tribunal, west zone has given time to concerned authorities to submit the reports till 31st January 2017,” said Mr. Aseem Sarode, a legal representative of fishermen community.
Mr. Sarode further added, “From past three years, an attempt to persuade the community leaders are being made from the builders’ lobby in Mumbai. They want the fishermen community to vacate their land for the developmental purpose.”
The fishing community is opposing the project citing large-scale ecological damage, and drop in fish catch which will affect their livelihood. “More than 32 different breed of fish exist here. Also, 250 boats are in operation. If the project ruins the positive breeding ground of fish, we all will have to suffer,” said Mr. Colaso.
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