He is on his way to the reservoir to meet his 4 fellow fishermen waiting there, equipped with all that is needed. It is a part of his routine now to display his Khaire Inland Fisheries Cooperative’s membership ID card at the check-post and take their 5 men fishing boat deep into the reservoir at night for the catch. This skill is relatively new to him; 5 years old precisely, and yet he shares a special bond with it. While he sticks to his traditional Katkari (fishermen) community’s style of fishing by the river during the day, the nights are reserved here. Mithun, 24, is the young and enthusiastic secretary of the cooperative movement started by Shramjivi Janta Sahayak Mandal (SJSM) in his and the neighboring block. Mithun tells us –
“We were unaware and prohibited from reservoir fishing before coming in contact with SJSM in 2007. That was a tough time for us. A lot of destruction was caused by the rains. I had completed my class 10th and with a few of my friends joined in. About 8 to 10 hamlets were allocated to each one of us. We received training in reservoir fishing and in turn encouraged folks from our allocated areas to become members of the cooperative which was to bid for the reservoir fishing rights that year. At that time, i fished during the day in the Nageshwari river for 4 to 5 kilos catch and sold it myself in the local markets. I sold them at around Rs. 120 to 130 per kilo. The efforts however were huge. All my day was occupied running between the river and the market and only this income for a few months was proving insufficient. Moving out of my home looked inevitable.
Things changed when i met SJSM. I started going out with a group of 5 fishermen every night for fishing in the reservoir. They also helped us acquire a boat at subsidized rates, good quality nets and ice boxes. A catch of about 8 to 10 kilos were obtained daily which i sold to the cooperative for Rs. 60 per kilo. This income was over and above my income from river water fishing. Also it saved me the hassle of marketing the catch. The income from both the day and night fishing together is now sufficient for my family. I spend the spare time i have between both the fishing shifts now in coordinating the cooperative’s activities and giving time at our in-house hatchery …”
What was the territory marked by resourceful private individuals hitherto, the right to fish in the small reservoirs scattered over the Mahad and Poladpur blocks of Raigad district of Maharashtra, is now shifting into the hands of the local Katkari (fishermen) community. And they are not complaining after experiencing how fisheries has moved from being the supportive to prime livelihood source for 483 families of the region; families whose incomes from a skill they have traditionally known going up from Rs. 2,080 to 14,632 in 3 years’ span; families whose fathers and sons do not have to go away in search of money anymore.
Read on here for a complete profile of the Cooperative Inland Fisheries model of Shramjivi Janta Sahayak Mandal