Fisheries play a crucial role in development. Considered a sunrise sector, it envisages bringing in great potential in an equitable, responsible, and inclusive manner. The sector employs approximately 28 million fish farmers and fishers and almost twice the number along the value chain.
In December 2014, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi called for a “blue revolution” and took several measures to harness the potential of fisheries. Some key measures include: The creation of a separate ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying; the formation of the department of fisheries with an independent administrative structure; bringing about policy reforms initiatives; and the creation of a fisheries and aquaculture infrastructure development fund in FY 2018-19 worth ₹7,522.48 crore. So far, proposals worth ₹4,923.94 crore have been recommended to states and Union Territories (UTs), including 20 fishing harbours and 16 fish landing centres and 25 proposals from private beneficiaries worth ₹120.23 crore.
The Government of India (GoI) has also launched its flagship scheme, Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), with the highest ever investment of ₹20,050 crore in the fisheries sector. PMMSY was launched by the PM, on September 10, 2020, under the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) package, aiming to double the incomes of small and artisanal fish farmers. It aims to transform the sector holistically, focusing on production and productivity growth, increased domestic consumption and export earnings, and reduced post-harvest losses. To enhance fish production and reduce post-harvest losses, the uptake of modern aquaculture, capture fishing, and post-harvest management practices are essential. For this, PMMSY lays special focus on skill and capacity-building.
Across the country, the scheme has got overwhelming responses from all states and UTs, and in the last two years, the department has sanctioned projects worth ₹8,562.72 crore for sectoral development. It is inspiring to share that fish production has increased from 141.64 lakh tonnes during 2019-20 to 162.53 lakh tonnes, as of date. On the other hand, India’s fisheries exports stood at an all-time high of ₹57,586.48 crore. The Indian export market is dominated by shrimps, particularly L vannamei. To achieve the target of exports worth ₹1 lakh crore under PMMSY, the department has been focusing on diversifying the export basket by increasing the production and quality of tilapia, trout, pangasius and other species. The activities and projects sanctioned to date have generated employment for around 350,000 people directly, and over 970,000 across the value chain. The central assistance of ₹3,000 per beneficiary per year has provided livelihood and nutritional support to a total of 677,462 marginalised fish farmers and their families during the fishing ban/lean period.
To augment and replenish fish production, promote sustainable fisheries practices, and support bio-conversation, PMMSY has introduced a sea and river ranching programme. PMMSY aims to emphasise interventions where fishing vessel insurance, promoting sustainable aquaculture, extension support services, technology infusion, integrated aqua park building, and fisheries cooperatives are some of the components. PMMSY gives special emphasis on employment generation for women, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes by providing alternate livelihood opportunities such as seaweed cultivation, ornamental fisheries. PMMSY provides 60% subsidies to women beneficiaries, including benefits to women entrepreneurs. Projects worth ₹1534.05 crore have been sanctioned for women, supporting 37,576 women beneficiaries.
Encouraging private sector participation, PMMSY has earmarked a separate fund of ₹100 crore under the entrepreneur models and urges young entrepreneurs to offer solutions through technology interventions. To facilitate access to institutional credit and meet working capital requirements, the GoI has extended kisan credit card (KCC) facilities to fish farmers from FY 2018-19. KCC national campaigns are being organised with the finance ministry and state departments. The national fisheries development board (NFDB), the nodal agency for PMMSY, has been organising fish festivals, culinary seminars, and exposure visits. The department released a book named Fish & Seafood – a collection of 75 gourmet recipes on August 10. Along with these interventions, the GoI has been making efforts to develop Indian fisheries towards becoming a global leader in the sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sector.
Parshottam Rupala is minister of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying
The views expressed are personal