Fishermen threaten nationwide protest over diesel price

National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) threatened Tuesday a nationwide protest along the coastline unless oil companies categorised fishermen as retail consumers of diesel within three days.

"We have given oil companies three days. If they do not respond, we will take to the streets and enforce a city-wide bandh. We will also block highways in all coastal states," said Ram Patil, NFF president.

The petroleum ministry hiked diesel price on January 18 by Rs 11.62 a litre for fishermen, classifying them as bulk consumers. The hike for retail individual consumers was Rs 0.54. Before the hike, fishermen were paying Rs 43.62 per litre (cost after Rs 9 government subsidy).

NFF also opposed the decision to hike prices by 40 to 50 paise per month.

Petroleum & natural gas minister Veerappa Moily announced a rollback of the diesel price hike for fishermen on Saturday, but oil companies are yet to respond.

Meanwhile, the Koli community strike entered its 18th day Wednesday and will continue till oil companies roll back the hike.

The near three-week-long strike has hit fisherfolk hard.

"Previously, we operated two boats. But after the price hike the last time to Rs 43, we decided to operate only one," said Rashmi Dongrikar, who lives in Versova village with husband, two school-going sons and in-laws.

"Most days, we have to borrow food from neighbours. If the strike continues, we will have no choice but to begin working as maids," she said.

A ten-day fishing expedition costs nearly Rs 2 lakh and requires her to stock between 1,400 and 1,500 litres of diesel. "On most trips, we are unable to recover expenditure or barely make profit," Dongrikar said.

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