From Vardah, to Jallikattu to Oil Spill, the fish vendors of Nadukuppam struggle to rebuild their lives

Five days after the Tamil Nadu Government inaugurated a temporary fish market for the women fish vendors in Nadukuppam, lack of other infrastructure including tools and capital has kept the women fish vendors from using these premises fully.

When the Jallikattu protest ended violently, the fish market of Nadukuppam fishing community near Marina Beach was set to fire destroying the market, fish and the vendors’ equipments. The community have gone on record saying that the vandalism was done by the police and that the police led the assault on the community after the community members gave shelter to protesters fleeing from police assault. In the middle of the day, the police teargassed the women vendors who were selling fish in the market and laid fire which destroyed the market completely.

After the issue gained prominence in social media by community members and activists, the Government had setup the temporary shelter which was inaugurated on February 2nd. After almost a week, a walk along the market shows several sections of empty shops with women in few shops selling meager amount of fish. They say that they have not been able to get capital to invest in new equipments and to buy fish. ‘Forget about the capital for our livelihood, the Government has not even given us some ration to feed us’, lamented a fish worker.

The women were appreciative of the fact that community groups and individuals had come forward to give immediate relief for them (A section of IT workers had organised relief materials and medical camps for the community). But they were apprehensive that the male members of the community tended to control the outpouring of material support while it was the women who were impacted in this process.

The fish vendors are not thrilled with the location of the temporary market either. Set along a pavement in a busy road, they say that they and their produce are affected by the fumes from the vehicles using the road. They complained of the aluminum sheeted shelters and the heat they are being exposed to. Those who have been able to access some capital and buy fish and emergency ice boxes, languished in this shelter even in sweltering heat in mid afternoon, hoping for customers. But due to the oil spill caused by collisions of two ships near Ennore, there has been a decided fall in the sale of fish, they said.

Adding to their woes, the community still faces harassment by police according to the women. The police keeps monitoring via random video shoots and pick up youth from the community, say the vendors. ‘They treat us as terrorists, we who have lived here for so long’, complained a woman vendor.

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