BJP leader Naik joins protesting fishermen

Says categorising fishermen as bulk consumers unjust.

BJP leader and former petroleum minister Ram Naik demanded Monday the diesel dual pricing policy be changed to exclude fishermen from the bulk consumers category. The bracketing of fishermen as bulk consumers has meant paying Rs 10.9 more per litre.

Recently, the petroleum ministry decided that those who buy diesel from depots will not get subsidy and have to pay Rs 10.9 more per litre as compared to buyers from retail outlets. The retail price of the fuel has been increased by Re 0.54.

Earlier, diesel sold at depots and retail outlets cost about the same.

The policy change classified fishermen as bulk consumers, burdening the community with a per litre price rise of over Rs 10 — from Rs 53.21 to Rs 64.11.

Naik said the decision by petroleum minister Veerappa Moily showed intellectual bankruptcy.

"It is improper and unjust to classify fishermen as bulk consumers because each co-operative of fishermen has been allotted a fuel bunk where boat owners individually purchase diesel. Issues such as sea pollution have hit the catch and fishermen are being compelled to venture deep into sea increasing fuel consumption. We, BJP, ask the government to exclude fishermen from the category of bulk consumers with immediate effect," he said.

Damodar Tandel, president of Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti, said fishermen across Maharashtra had stopped purchasing diesel in protest and a nation-wide agitation under National Fishermen Forum had begun.

"After the new price structure came into effect about a week ago, more than 75 per cent of fishermen in Maharashtra have not entered sea. We have spoken to Union minister Sharad Pawar, who has promised to take up the matter with Moily," he said.

Tandel said to venture into deep sea for seven days at a stretch, a single boat required 2,500 liters of diesel costing over Rs 1 lakh. "Many a time the cost is not recovered. With increased price it has become impossible for us to sustain," he said.

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