Vehicular movement at Dhaka-Chattogram highway remained halted for two hours on Sunday as fishermen blocked Faujdarhat police outpost area in Sitakunda upazila protesting at the government’s decision to ban fishing on the Bay of Bengal for 65 days.
Later they called off their protest after getting assurance from the deputy commissioner of Chattogram and a local member of parliament that their demand would soon be considered.
The demonstrators said they would submit a memorandum to the prime minister very soon urging the government to lift the ban.
On Sunday morning around 10:00am hundreds of fishermen along with their families from the 38 Jele Pallis of Chattogram gathered near Port Link road at Dhaka-Chattogram highway, causing 10-kilometer long tailback.
By placing two small boats on the highway and holding placards and festoons, they were protesting amid continuous drizzle.
A fisherman Priyanath Jaldash said when a 21-day ban on catching, selling, hoarding and transporting of hilsas remained in force, the authorities now extended it to 65 days.
He said that it is a threat to their livelihood as they catch fish only within a four square kilometre area of the sea without ever going beyond the limit.
Priyanath said that if the ban is not immediately lifted, they would die starving.
‘We survive by catching small fishes. We don’t catch hilsas. If we knew that the authority would impose a ban on fishing, we would not have taken out loans to repair nets and boats,’ he added.
The imposition of restriction on catching fish on the Bay of Bengal for 65 days starting from May 20 would continue till July 23 aims to preserve and ensure smooth breeding of sea fish and crustacean.
This year’s imposition of ban was sudden. In the past, the government used to impose ban on fishing following the hilsa season which allowed fishermen to earn during the season.
This time, the department of fisheries made an announcement that from May 20 to July 23 there would be a ban on fishing at bay and that the authority will provide 40 kg rice to each family to compensate the loss.
The ban caused severe financial crisis among the fishermen in peak season, said North Chattola Coastal Jolodas Samabay Samity vice president Upendra Jolodas.
His response was unequivocal — he said that they would not take rice. They were poor but not beggars.
Regarding their decision to withdraw the blockade, he said that due to the assurance from the DC they decided to suspend their campaign.
Samity president Liton Das said that earlier the ban was applicable for only commercial fishing trawlers not for the fishermen who catch fish in small boats. But on May 6 Fisheries and Livestock minister Ashraf Ali Khan imposed a fresh ban following a meeting held at Chattogram Circuit House which brought disaster to the fishing community.
Earlier on June 1, the fishermen, at a press conference held at Chattogram Press Club, declared that if the authority did not lift the ban on small boats they would go for a movement. But it fell on deaf ears, said Liton das.
Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad general secretary Rana Das Gupta, Chattogram Jela Puja Udjapon Parishad general secretary Shaymol Palit expressed their solidarity with the protesters.
Advocate Rana Das Gupta said that the government should take a decision to lift the ban as early as possible. The fishermen were suffering as they could not catch fish in peak season.
Local MP Didarul Alam said that very soon they would solve the problem.
Highway police Chattogram zone assistant police super Md Forhad said that the vehicular movement remained halted for two hours on both sides of Dhaka-Chattogram highway when the agitated fishermen took to the street.
He said that later the fishermen withdrew their blockade around 12 noon after getting assurance from the local MP and UNO of Sitakunda.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country