Perched on the north-eastern cor

Document Sample
Perched on the north-eastern cor Powered By Docstoc

                Report of a Field Study

                         The Study Team

       ICM                                       SIFFS
 Jagannadha Rao M                           Suryanarayana G
 Vishnu Srinivas M                         Srirama Murthy M

                    Study coordinated by

                 S BHASKARA SARMA
                 Regional Officer, SIFFS

   Planning, data analysis and report preparation

                    First Draft, 28 August 2004

ICM                             SIFFS
          n eg a ed                                  Soutth IIndiian
                                                     Sou h nd an
         Coas a                                      Federrattiion off
                                                     Fede a on o
         Managemen                                   Fiisherrmen Sociiettiies
                                                     F she men Soc e es
Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Map of Srikakulam District showing coastal mandals and key fishing villages ............................ 2
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY....................................................... 3
  Migration in fishing communities on the east coast of India ...................................................... 3
  The purpose of the study ............................................................................................................. 4
  Methodology ............................................................................................................................... 5
  Structure of the report ................................................................................................................. 6
  Limitations of the study .............................................................................................................. 6
CHAPTER 2: STREAMS OF MIGRATION FROM SRIKAKULAM DISTRICT ............................................. 7
  Migration of fishers in Srikakulam: the traditional push factors ................................................ 8
  Waves of migration by fishing communities from Srikakulam district ...................................... 9
  Migration: the First Wave (c.1850-1942) ................................................................................. 10
  The First Exodus from Burma and the Period of Strife ............................................................ 14
  Migration: The Second Wave (1950-1970) .............................................................................. 14
  Migration: The Third Wave (1985-Ongoing) ........................................................................... 20
CHAPTER 3: MIGRATION FROM SRIKAKULAM DISTRICT IN 1990S .................................................. 26
  Extent of migration from the district ........................................................................................ 26
  Important streams of migration from Srikakulam district ........................................................ 26
  Distribution of migrants according to destination .................................................................... 28
  Geographical origins of fishers pursuing different migration streams ..................................... 29
  Mandal-wise origin of migrants into different migration streams ............................................ 31
CHAPTER 4: MIGRATION TO GUJARAT FISHERIES .......................................................................... 33
  Need for migrant labour in Gujarat fisheries ............................................................................ 33
  Cast of characters involved in migration .................................................................................. 36
  The Migration Cycle ................................................................................................................. 37
  Other migration streams ............................................................................................................ 50
  Impact of migration at the household level............................................................................... 58
  Impact of migration on the community at large........................................................................ 65
CHAPTER 6: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS ................................................................................... 70
  Migrations: An opportunity or a compulsion? .......................................................................... 70
  A comparison of migration in the previous and the current phases .......................................... 71
  The fishers‟ perceptions about migration ................................................................................. 75
  Institutional responses to migration .......................................................................................... 76
  The way forward ....................................................................................................................... 79
REFERENCES .................................................................................................................................. 84
APPENDICES ................................................................................................................................... 85
  Appendix I: Mandal-wise migration of Srikakulam fishers into fishing and related activities 86
  Appendix II: Mandal-wise migration of Srikakulam fishers into non-fishing activities .......... 89
  Appendix III: Numbers of sailors, Tindals and Side-Tindals from different villages .............. 90
  Appendix IV: Particulars of villages engaged in cradles/hammocks manufacture and trade ... 91
  Appendix V: Distribution of shore-seines (alivi vala) in different mandals ............................. 91

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Map of Srikakulam District showing coastal mandals (in yellow) and key fishing

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Migration in fishing communities on the east coast of India

Seasonal migration is an important and regular livelihood adaptation undertaken by many natural
resource dependent communities in various parts of the world. The marine fishing communities
on the east coast of India have generally stood in the forefront of seasonal migrants, having
developed systems that were particularly adapted for a quasi-nomadic existence that is as much a
reflection of the fugitive nature of the fish they hunt as of the open access systems that
characterised many fishing operations. Simply put, the seasonal nature of fishing activities leaves
marine fishers unemployed for parts of the year, which – combined with low earnings (that leave
little surplus to survive lean periods) – necessitates seeking alternative options during the lean
season and migration is a response to this necessity.

There are different varieties of migration and the simplest – and the most widely prevalent –
variety involves a mere shift in the location to pursue the same activity as before. The movement
can be from one village to another within the state or in another state or even in another country
and the distances involved could range from a few kilometres to quite long distances. On the east
coast of India, an example of a short migration is that of the fishers of Chilika Lake who migrate
seasonally from their island villages to the sea beach (often no more than a sand bar separating
the lake from the Bay of Bengal) where they erect small makeshift tents and pursue marine
fishing for four months in a year. The Oriya fishers residing about 15 km upstream from the
mouth of River Debi between Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts move downstream to the sea shore
for three months in a year, conduct fishing from the beaches and use them also for drying small
pelagics they catch during this period. Similar movements have been reported from the Bhitar
Kanika villages in Orissa, where fishers move from creek fishing to marine fishing seasonally.
The case of the fishers of West Bengal moving to small islands at the river mouths, such as
Jambudweep, is another well-known instance of seasonal short distance migrations within the
state. Slightly longer distances are involved in the migration of the north Andhra fishers to
southern parts of the state involving a distance of 100-300 km.

An outstanding example of inter-state migration is that of the fishers from northern districts of
Andhra Pradesh who routinely migrate to the fishing centres in the central Orissa – Puri, Konark,
Astaranga and Paradeep – for three to six months in a year. In West Bengal, seasonal movement
of fishers in the various tributaries of the River Padma periodically takes them into Bangladesh,
where they reside and fish for parts of the year (albeit unofficially) and the reverse – i.e., fishers
from Bangladesh shifting to West Bengal for a few months in a year – is also prevalent.

While geographical migrations such as these is an integral part of life in many fishing
communities, there are also examples of a more complex variety of migration among some
traditionally resource-poor fishing communities involving shifts in location as well as (or often
only) in occupation. The proportion of geographical and occupational shifts in such migrations
are determined by various factors including the skills and aptitude of the fishers, availability of
opportunities locally and elsewhere, caste and kinship ties, shared bonds of language and
geographical origins, prior existence of reciprocal arrangements and traditional access or use

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

rights etc. The caste-based occupational arrangements (which discourages shifting to alternate
occupations locally, even if available) generally frowned upon people from a caste moving into
non-conventional livelihoods, but these were soon overcome as the external pressures on the
livelihoods (as well as on the controlling systems themselves) mounted. An example of the
migration of this sort, which forms a basis of this study, comes from Srikakulam district where it
began around the middle of the 19th Century and has continued down the decades with increasing
intensity but for different reasons at different times.

The purpose of the study

In Srikakulam district, as elsewhere, geographical and occupational migration has been an
important coping strategy for the fishers to overcome seasonal deprivation. By 1990s, as a
consequence of major changes occurring in the traditional fishing systems – in terms of changes
in supply, technology and markets – migration changed from a short-term response to seasonal
deprivation to a longer term strategy to address worsening conditions of endemic poverty and, in
many cases, even a primary livelihood strategy.

In the initial stages of migration, the returns to the fishers – as earnings – have been very good.
Migration also offered other perks and the influence of these „pull‟ factors – and the canvassing
they received from local agents (who may have been the ultimate beneficiary in the process) – in
encouraging fishers to migrate in large numbers cannot be underestimated. In terms of reducing
pressure on local resources and providing employment to a large number of workers, the mass
exodus of fishers may have been a positive trend for a resource-poor area like Srikakulam.

However, by late 1990s, two issues came to the forefront of discussions about migrations to
places like Gujarat. Firstly, stories of exploitation of the fishers, inhuman treatment, deception,
denial of fundamental rights and much more have become quite rife and needed urgent attention
of the policy makers and civil society organisations. Secondly, decreasing viability of fishing
operations in Gujarat itself and increasing competition from new migrants from the villages
began to affect the work opportunities and the earnings, raising fears of unemployment all over
again. Although a sizeable proportion of the fishers continue to depend on migration and to hope
that they will still be able to find work for a few years yet, their hold on the new jobs is much
less secure than previously.

During this whole period, the government‟s role has been that of a mute spectator and any
policies and programmes for supporting, empowering and strengthening the migrants and their
status in the new areas have so far been conspicuous by their absence. The efforts to improve
local employment opportunities have been largely symbolic and the fishers are not yet confident
they could earn a livelihood if they went back to their villages. Put simply, the „push‟ factors
remain as strong as when the fishers began to move out, while the „pull‟ factors have weakened.

Thus, a need was felt to understand migration in fishing communities in more detail and to
develop comprehensive policy responses to it. The issues of concern relate to (i) sustainability of
current livelihoods (ii) terms and conditions of employment and (iii) future options for making
more secure livelihoods available to the fishers. In this background, the focus of this study has
been to understand the issue of migration among the fishing communities in Srikakulam district,

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

analyse its causes and consequences, assess its magnitude and impact, and derive some policy
guidance for improving the institutional support systems to address the issue in a holistic and
integrated manner and to enhance the fishers‟ capacity to deal with the „migrant condition‟ more


The first and foremost issue of importance was to ascertain the numbers of fishers undertaking
migration on a regular basis. Lacking secondary sources of information on the qualitative and
quantitative aspects, this study depended upon primary data for the most part to understand the
phenomenon. After having discussed a number of options – door-to-door surveys, using the
numbers of labour contractors as a proxy indicator etc – which were found to be time consuming,
expensive or impractical, it was decided to visit as many villages as time, money and resources
permitted, contact the widest possible number of people having direct or indirect experience of
migration and elicit information by informal interviewing and using a range of participatory tools.

After the data requirements for the study were worked in detail by the officers of SIFFS and ICM,
the field data collection was done by a team of four people, two each from the staff of SIFFS and
ICM under the guidance and supervision of the Regional Officer, SIFFS. The data collection was
done at different times throughout 2002 and early 2003. During the first phase of field data
collection, primary data were obtained from 85 villages in the district, while information on
another 14 villages was obtained from secondary sources – mainly the neighbouring villages that
had been visited. The villages covered in the study are listed in Appendix I.

In each village, data relating mainly to migrations during 2001-2002 (being the closest to the
period of field work) were collected in interactions with groups. Generally, group meetings were
followed up with individual interviews at the household level in order to obtain a qualitative
picture of the causes and consequences of migration on different people. Men and women were
sometimes interviewed separately to gain a good perspective on all aspects of migration. Cross-
validating the information was not confined to different sections within the villages, but also to
other villages which could often have a surprisingly detailed knowledge of the patterns of
migration from their neighbouring villages, due mainly to kinship relations that exist between
them and also to the fact that fishers from different villages often emigrated together. The
information obtained was cross-checked and validated with that from other sources drawn across
different sections of the fishers. The validity of the numbers obtained from group interactions
was ascertained by conducting door-to-door surveys in three villages after the numbers were
derived from group interactions, and the degree of variation was found to be insignificant. Still, it
is necessary to maintain that the numbers given are the best approximations rather than exact
figures. During the second phase of the field study, some of the villages covered during the first
phase were revisited for cross-checking and validating the information from the previous phase
in order to plug any gaps that were discovered during the analysis, and to check the validity of
the conclusions across the coastal fishing villages in the state. The key issues that emerged from
the first phase were consolidated into some statements which were taken for validation in these
villages and it was found that the conclusions were 100 percent valid in 25 percent of the villages,
up to 90 percent valid in another 50 percent villages, and between 50 and 60 percent in the rest.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Structure of the report

Chapter 2 provides a background of the history of migration from Srikakulam district and the
important phases in migrations of fishing communities from the district. Chapter 3 provides the
factors contributing to the current round of migrations and summarises quantitative data on
different migratory streams and the numbers of people in each stream and includes an origin- and
destination-wise overview of migration from the district. Chapter 4 describes the „migrant
condition‟ taking the migratory stream to Gujarat fisheries as an example, both because of its
representative nature as well as the fact that Gujarat fisheries is the most important destination
for most fishers from Srikakulam. The chapter also includes brief descriptions of four other
important migratory chains. Chapter 5 discusses the impact of migration at the level of the
migrants‟ households and the larger community. The sixth and final chapter summarises key
conclusions emerging from the study and suggests some ideas for improved policy responses
from the government as well as the NGOs. The appendices provide summaries of the
quantitative data collected during the study including information about the number of persons
who have migrated from each of 99 villages in the district during 2001-2.

Limitations of the study

For the purpose of this study, the focus has been on migrations undertaken by the active
fishermen only, although it is recognised that it is necessary to understand the migrations at the
household level to get a truer picture. To keep things simple, the report is presented avoid
prefixes like, “It has been reported by…” as much as possible. Case studies, which would have
added considerably to the value to the report, have been left out although many cases have been
documented during the field study.

Considering the importance of the Gujarat fisheries migration stream1 to the fishers, the study
focused more on this stream than on the others and it is the example of Gujarat fisheries that was
used in the general discussions also, except when indicated otherwise. It has to be noted that, for
a study that has focused so much on the migration to Gujarat, this one suffers from the fact that
the study team has not visited Gujarat at any time during the study period. All information about
the conditions in Gujarat thus comes from interviews with the fishers themselves. Although the
information has been validated a number of times, it still remains a gap.

The temptation to „locate‟ the study in the current debates on migration and poverty was quite
strong while writing the report, but the temptation was consciously avoided. It has been felt that
the study of fishermen migration from Srikakulam is a complex and compelling story in itself
and needs telling in detail for its own sake. Also, because a secondary review was not conducted
at the beginning of the field study, doing one now will necessitate further work in the field,
which was unaffordable because of the inordinate delay already incurred in finishing the study,
or fitting facts to suit the theory, which can never be an objective exercise. It is hoped that this
study will be taken more as the first in a series of detailed investigations into the fishers‟
migrations and that the future studies will explore the various issues in more detail.

  Deshingkar and Start (2003) define a migration stream as a specific combination of caste, origin, destination and
type of work at the destination, a change in any one of these factors making a different migration stream.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Srikakulam district is perched on the north-eastern corner of Andhra Pradesh bordering the Bay
of Bengal on the east, Orissa to the north, and Vizianagaram district to the west and south.
Richly endowed with natural resources and mineral deposits, the district however lags behind in
development terms particularly in irrigation, transport and infrastructure, industrial growth and
urbanisation. In spite of having the longest coastline among the nine coastal districts in Andhra
Pradesh, the district also has the dubious distinction of being the least developed among them.
Moreover, natural disasters like droughts, famines and cyclones periodically visit the area
bringing untold miseries in their wake, and it is only in the late-20th Century that the intensity of
natural disasters in terms of human suffering has been somewhat contained.

The general level of poverty that characterised the primary sector occupations – agriculture,
fisheries, forestry and livestock – in Srikakulam area has been an important factor encouraging
migration. Agriculture and other primary sector occupations are poorly developed and also
highly uncertain. The hinterland of the district is covered by the Eastern Ghats, which are
clothed in thick forests inhabited by a number of tribes eking out a meagre existence and thus is
not conducive to undertake large-scale agriculture.

During the colonial rule (and for a long period even after Independence), the ownership of the
available cultivable land in the plains was highly skewed in favour of a few Zamindars. The
working conditions were highly feudal and exploitative, leading to at least one serious working
class revolt against the landlords in the area as early as 1940 (Mutyam, 2003) and a more serious
– and famous – one in the late 1960s. Although there has been some redistribution of land
ownership in the post-Independence period (which may have more to do with the movement of
capital out of agriculture into other activities in urban areas outside the district than to
institutional efforts at land redistribution) the imbalance in land ownership remains very high.

In any case, agricultural production in the district is largely dependent upon rain, and failure of
seasonal rains – a regular occurrence – is a disaster for the thousands of farmers and agricultural
labourers who depend upon them. Although two rivers – the Vamsadhara and the Nagavali – and
a number of small rivulets pass through the district before draining into the Bay of Bengal, they
are seasonal and so availability of water is a perennial problem for irrigation purposes. The
farmers barely manage a single crop in a year and most farmers generally prefer to grow semi-
arid varieties like minor millets. As water becomes increasingly scarce, the farmers are shifting
to casuarina (for paper pulp industry) which is certainly less profitable than paddy but requires
less attention and lesser water. Recent studies show widespread and regular migration of
agricultural labourers from the district to urban areas (particularly Visakhapatnam) in search of
work, clearly indicating that agriculture has ceased to be a sustainable source of employment.

The hostility of the natural and social conditions is exacerbated by official apathy and neglect
over the decades. A major portion of the district was part of Ganjam district (now in Orissa) in
the erstwhile Madras Presidency and the influence of Orissa on the social, cultural and economic
spheres is still clearly perceptible in the northern parts of the district. After the formation of the
province of Orissa in 1936 which included the Ganjam district, the erstwhile Chicacole
(Srikakulam) division in Ganjam district became a part of Vizagapatam (now Visakhapatnam)

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

district (Orissa, 1995: 2) and thus it remained until 1950, when it was carved out as a separate
district. Its location at the farthest end of Ganjam district in the beginning and at the state
boundaries (farthest from the state capital) in Andhra Pradesh in the later years may have
contributed to the long period of neglect the area suffered from a development perspective.

Under conditions of widespread poverty and poor quality of life in general, endemic and large-
scale unemployment (particularly of a seasonal nature, thereby masking its real magnitude), poor
earnings and high indebtedness and lack of alternative livelihood options, the fundamental
impetus for migration to resource-poor communities like the fishers in Srikakulam comes from
the lack of opportunities locally – the „push‟ factors – which force people to spread out seeking
work2. In many cases, as shall be discussed, the push factors are soon replaced by a new set of
„pull‟ factors which may even supplant the push factors as the motivating factors for migration.
The next sections will describe the larger push and pull factors at work in Srikakulam.

Migration of fishers in Srikakulam: the traditional push factors

Marine fishing has been one of the more important livelihood activities in the district. The
picture of the fishing communities in the 19th and 20th Centuries that emerges from literature as
well as interactions with the fishers is not much different from that for the neighbouring regions.
As elsewhere, the fishers were a poor community marginalised physically and socially from the
mainstream of society and drew a precarious existence based on subsistence-based artisanal
fishing. The local markets were limited and confined to a few varieties of processed fish, while
the capacity of the fishers to preserve or transport their fish over long distances was low. The
district has a coastline of 200 km and the urban centres are generally so far inland that the fishers
had a difficult time managing to reach their fish to the markets or transport points. The role of
capitalists and middlemen in the sector was minimal and was confined to people belonging to the
non-fishing Kevuta caste, who acted as traders-cum-moneylenders, providing loans to ensure
monopsony in fish procurement.

The annual administration reports of the Madras Fisheries Bureau (MFB, 1915; MFB, 1916;
MFB, 1918 etc.) also indicate that, besides seasonal unemployment imposed by the nature of the
activity, the area was periodically plagued by fish famines and failure of fishing seasons. These
fluctuations had a serious impact on the lives of the fishers because of their unexpected nature: in
a system that was completely dependent on, and geared to deal with, a specific event happening
at a particular time, the slightest upset could be catastrophic. Past debts, present consumption
needs, future security will all be badly affected. The simple wooden catamarans that the fishers
used – no doubt a marvel of technological refinement – were unfit for going to or operating from
other locations, so there was a limited scope for fishing migrations with their boats, like their
counterparts from the neighbouring coastal districts did.

For many fishers, this practically meant selling or pawning their fishing equipment to survive; in
other words, losing their productive assets once and for all, jeopardising their future often

  It is necessary to bear in mind that, considering the relatively recent origin of Srikakulam district itself and also
that it shares the general features of poverty with other districts in the neighbourhood, many things described here
are common to a wider area beyond Srikakulam district also. Thus, the references to the district in this section
should be taken in a general sense, as being applicable to a region of which Srikakulam is a part.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

irredeemably. Widespread hunger, disease, destitution and, inevitably, migration were the
consequences of the failure of fishing seasons. The difference between these survival migrants
and the seasonal migrants is that, frequently, there is no coming back for the former migrants
except when the conditions in the new areas were even worse. Even when they returned, it was
seldom into fishing activity and the return often meant only a brief halt before moving on again
in search of greener pastures.

The caste affiliation of the fishers in Srikakulam also curtailed opportunities for diversification.
The fishers in the area mainly belonged to the Vadabalija, a thoroughbred seafaring caste that
disdained owning landed assets, treating the sea as their prime asset 3. Only some fishers in areas
like Manchineella Peta, Kotharevu, Altada and Marrivada were an exception in that they owned
landed property, while the rest generally got used to a seasonal peripatetic existence following
fish wherever it took them. It was considered demeaning for a fisherman to be seen working in
another sector – to wit, as agricultural labourer – in his native area, although once they were out
of the area, they did not hesitate to undertake virtually any task.

So far, the story is largely the same as for the fishing communities in other districts in the region,
with two differences: (i) the all-pervading conditions of poverty in the region meant that the
margins of trade were even less than in the case of other coastal fishing communities (and hence
less surplus to survive the lean periods) and (ii) local alternatives were ruled out during lean
seasons because agriculture hardly provided enough income or employment to adequately fulfil
the needs of the people directly employed in it, let alone provide additional opportunities for the
seasonal influx of a large number of labourers from other sectors like fisheries. Apart from these
two, perhaps the most important factor to account for the vibrant culture of migration among the
fishers would be the existence of well-entrenched channels of migration from other sectors
within the district.

Waves of migration by fishing communities from Srikakulam district

Thus, as a result of various push and pull factors, there have always been two categories of
migrants coming from the region at any given time in the last 150 years: (i) the short-term
seasonal migrants whose primary – or secondary – affiliation is to fishing back in their villages
and (ii) the longer-term migrants for whom fishing is, at best, one of many options. The
migrations from Srikakulam district in the last century and a half took place in three waves.

The first wave took place from the latter half of 19th Century and continued up to the Second
World War in the 20th Century, although some of the permanent migrants continued to remain in
their places of migration right up to mid-1960s. The important destinations during this phase
were Burma and Malaya (and some southern districts within the Madras Presidency).

The second wave of migrations took place from about the time of Independence in 1947 up to
mid-1970s. The migrants reached far and wide within the country and found work in many
industrial centres, ports, and plantations. The newly independent India began to industrialise in a
big way and there were opportunities for people to work.
 The Palles hailing from districts further south have always had at least a secondary affiliation to agriculture,
keeping livestock etc., and in due course, they would even manage to enter into agriculture in Srikakulam itself!

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The third wave of migrations started in mid-1980s and has continued with increasing vigour
right up to the present time. The important destinations for the new migrants are Gujarat and
Maharashtra on the west coast of India.

Migration: the First Wave (c.1850-1942)4

Emigration to Godavari, and later, to Burma was the customary safety valve to the people in the
area (Francis 1907 (reprint 1992): 107) and,

           “in 1901 the Godvari district contained no fewer than 120,940 persons who had been
           born in Vizagapatnam, Kistna included 17,524 more and Ganjam another 8,795… From
           no other district in the Presidency did emigration occur on anything even approaching
           this large scale, and the inference arises that the people of Vizagapatnam are not
           particularly contented with their lot.” (Francis, 1907: 60)

From the available records, it is difficult to say exactly when the people of east coast of India
began migrating to Burma, but there is evidence to show that people had been going there even
in early 19th Century (Satyanarayana, 2001). The long history of trade and commercial contacts
between ancient Andhra-Kalinga area and Burma indicate strong social, economic and cultural
links dating back to centuries. What is certain is that it was in the 1870s, with the growth of
transport and communications facilities between Burma and the east coast of India as well as the
increasing demand for manual labour in the newly industrialising Burma and Malaya that
successive waves of south Indian immigrants began to move to these countries.

Push factors

Frequent „fish droughts‟, failure of fishing seasons and hard working conditions that the open-sea
based fishing imposed upon the fishers were cited by the fishers as the main causes for migration.
Satyanarayana (2001) lists the other important „push‟ factors contributing to the migration of
fishers from Srikakulam area in the first period as: growing pressure on land, poverty,
unemployment, adverse seasonal conditions, natural calamities like famine, flood and cyclones
and notes that a definite correlation existed between natural calamities and increased migration
in certain years. Large-scale emigration of people from the area to Burma reportedly averted the
spread of famines in their places of origin, and also increased work opportunities to those who
chose to remain behind.

Obviously, social exclusion had an important role to play as well. To quote Deshingkar and Start
(2003), “Much of the migration has been undertaken by historically poor and assetless
communities who are typically lower caste and tribals”. As Satyanarayana (2001) notes, “for the
lower social groups and cases, migration meant opportunity, equality and emancipation”. Burma
drew a number of Telugu speaking untouchable and lower Sudra peasant castes. The migrants
from Srikakulam largely belonged to the Vadabalija community, while those from Kakinada
area included large numbers of people belonging to the Palle community.

    Some very useful information for this section is drawn from an excellent study by Satyanarayana (2001).

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Pull factors

There were also some strong „pull‟ factors – which included the proximity of prominent trading
routes, growing demand for manual labour, and the possibility of making it big with the
opportunities that were available for hard working immigrants in Burma – that drew the people
to the distant nations5. Many pioneer migrants made a fortune in the new country, a fact that
would attract a number of other people in their wake in the short term, but eventually played a
critical role in their ouster from the country.

Once people found opportunities in Burma, they flocked there in such large numbers that their
traditional migratory routes – to Godavari district for instance – practically dried up. In fact, the
rush to Burma included a sizeable number of people from the Godavari districts themselves,
indicating the strong „pull‟ factors that encouraged migrations in spite of strong restrictions in
many castes on travelling across seas. Thus, the main streams of emigration to Burma originated
from the northern coastal districts of Ganjam, Vizagapatam, Godavari and Kistna, although
Ganjam (of which the present Srikakulam was a part) sent the largest number of labourers in any
given year. The Burma Census figures of 1921 on migration indicate that approximately 5
percent of the population of Ganjam and 3 percent each for Vizagapatam and Godavari were in
Burma. The migration of such large numbers had actually meant an overall decline in the
population of Ganjam by nearly 2 percent between 1911 and 1912. The migration was largely
confined to able bodied males of 15-40 years of age, leading to serious gender imbalances both
in their native villages as well as in their new location.

Mode of migration

At this time, Baruva (now a non-descript coastal town in Srikakulam district) was an important
port with a direct connection to Burma which lay directly across the Bay of Bengal6. When the
regular British-India fortnightly/weekly steamer service covering Cocanada-Vizagapatam-
Gopalpur-Rangoon7 was introduced, it contributed greatly to familiarising the people of coastal
Andhra with the idea of Burma. Dried fish was one of the commodities exported from Baruva
port to Rangoon. The local fishers were employed as manual labourers at the Port, which
involved loading and unloading and this also stimulated an emigration flow. Soon, the people of
Visakhapatnam, Chicacole (now Srikakulam) and the Godavari basin were flocking to buy their
way to Burma onboard the two British-India steamships, Jala Durga and Chilka (The Hindu, 7
July 2003).

The migrant experience in Burma

Some of the Vadabalijas from Srikakulam area and the Palles from the Godavari delta were
skilled in carpentry (a skill honed by centuries of building fishing boats), and many of them

  A great fisherman-philanthropist of this time was Malladi Satyalingam Naicker, who made his fortune in Burma
and donated a sizeable sum for setting up a school and college at Kakinada, which continues to this day.
  There are several instances when the fishers of Burma who had been caught in cyclones drifted straight across the
Bay of Bengal to reach the coast of Srikakulam district.
  It may possibly have originated at Coringa, but as the Coringa port silted up and lost importance, Cocanada (now
Kakinada) took over its commerce.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

found immediate work in the thriving wood industries in Burma on arrival. However, a majority
of the Vadabalija migrants were unskilled and undertook a wide diversity of functions that a
skilled person might have disdained. Working as wage labourers – in agriculture, railways, ports
and harbours, processing industries and oil refineries – was the most widespread activity. A few
migrants also found work as labourers on boats for transporting goods along the rivers and
backwaters of Burma, while some worked as „Coolies‟ or porters. In some fields, like rickshaw
pulling, sweeping and scavenging, the Telugu migrants were virtually the dominant group, and
were widely acknowledged for some of their services – like sweeping, scavenging and washing
clothes (dhobis) – where their services were felt „absolutely necessary as under no conditions
would the Burmese agree to carry out the work‟, as reported by the Rangoon Gazette (cited in
Satyanarayana, 2003). With distance, social and caste constraints weakened sufficiently to allow
the fishers to move into such occupations once they were out of their natural environment.

Equally interesting is the rise of these largely illiterate people – who came from the socially and
economically backward classes in their country – in a new country where they hardly knew the
language, culture or customs of the local people and yet managed to succeed with a resilience of
spirit that comes across again and again through the long and chequered history of their
migrations. They intermarried with the local communities as the facial features of their
descendents who have long returned to India clearly testify, and this allowed them to find a firm
foothold in the local milieu. Soon some of them were running timber and other productive
businesses as well as undertaking major contracts in shipping business.

Many women also found their way to Burma, although outnumbered by men by a ratio of one to
five. Satyanarayana (2003:11) notes that a large number of these women went to Burma for the
purpose of prostitution, which thrived among the immigrant communities where the males, being
cut off from their families for extended periods of time, were forced to lead lives of enforced
celibacy. Nearly half the Telugu female labourers in Burma were reported to be working as
prostitutes, while the rest worked as domestic servants and other menial workers. The women
spent a few years in Burma, earned well enough to go back to their villages and live off their
earnings for the rest of their lives, often spending some of their money on building temples and
on charitable works, perhaps as an act of atonement.

It was rarely that the migrant fishers worked in fishing related activities in Burma, which
enhanced their work opportunities as long as they stayed in Burma, but after a period, this would
hurt them when they were forced to return to India and tried to take up fishing only to discover
that they had lost the skills.

Back in their villages, the migrants awoke mixed feelings: they inspired both awe and suspicion.
Their successful careers and economic wellbeing were awe-inspiring, but at least three factors
caused much resentment – (i) it was the time when crossing oceans to go to other lands and
climes was still considered unacceptable and the migrants crossed the oceans defying the ban
albeit for valid reasons; (ii) the migrants were notoriously promiscuous, a fact that was well
advertised in the vernacular press of the day; and (iii) the nature of some of their occupations –
scavenging, for instance – were considered abhorrent and degrading. A fourth factor might have
had to do with sheer envy: the migrants, who managed to make it big, came back to settle down
in their native villages in royal splendour evoking much heartburn among their less fortunate

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

brethren. In the Palle villages further south, the caste panchayats actually decided to impose a
ban on intermarriages with the migrants‟ families, forcing the latter to seek matches elsewhere8.

No wonder then that, in spite of making a good name for themselves (and some good money too),
many migrants were also racked by feelings of guilt and a strong longing for their native place
and to their natural vocation, which gave them a dignity that they felt they had lost in the new
place. From the writings of the migrants, one can see the uneasy existence they were forced to
lead in a distant land and their hopes for going back to their home some day, a longing coloured
no doubt by time and distance that separated them from the villages. It also gave rise to the
familiar „neither-here-nor-there‟ syndrome: long cut off from their native communities, the
fishers could not return to the fold and live as before nor did the long stay in the new area permit
them to assimilate into the new society either. This restlessness would characterise all their
future migrations as well.

The migrants’ perception of migration

An important strand that runs through the whole idea of migration during the first wave is the
firm belief (frequently supported by actual practice) among the fishers that it was a temporary
measure to ward off poor fishing seasons or rough patches. Satyanarayana (2003) notes that „the
most important and noticeable feature of south Indian labour migrations to Malaysia and Burma
were steady, seasonal and cyclical‟. Although many migrants chose to make Rangoon their home,
a great majority of them had no intention of permanently settling down, even if they found it
made economically sound sense to stay on. Even those who had struck gold in Burma (like the
Palle philanthropist, MS Naicker) packed bags and went back to India as soon as they decided
they had earned enough. As Suryanarayana (1977: 42) notes, “The love for the native place of
these workers is immense”. One might add that this love was also complemented by the
resilience of the traditional fishing activities, which seemed to overcome serious fluctuations
sufficiently quickly to enable the fishers to take up fishing once again.

Thus, we find the stream of migration to be a two-way process in this phase – there was both an
inflow as well as an outflow through the latter half of 19th and early parts of 20th Centuries as the
fishers in different locations found different times appropriate to go or come back. Many fishers
– for e.g., from villages like Altada, Marrivada, Kotharevu, and Pukkallapeta – migrated to
Burma seasonally and returned whenever the local conditions for fishing improved, thus making
the best of both worlds and also indicating that the migration was more for additional income
than out of survival needs. Migration to Burma mostly took place only at certain periods, i.e.,
between October and December, the labourers went to work and returned during March-May –
the parallels with the seasonal migration of Andhra Pradesh fishers to Orissa annually are
striking. This also shows that the fishers‟ primary affiliation was to their natural vocation in their
native place.

There were also longer term migrants who remained in Burma for a year or two, working on
boats on monthly wages and returned home at the end of it with a fair amount of savings that

  The puritanical treatment of the migrants for their promiscuity smacks of hypocrisy because an important
institution at all village festivals in the Palle villages is the „special shows‟ put up by women belonging to traditional
prostitute castes (Kalavantulu, Bogam etc.) which invariably ended up in wild debaucheries.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

kept them secure for at least a few years, if not for life. Here it is apt to take note of the
contention of the older fishers that the migrants returned home (leaving lucrative jobs elsewhere)
because fishing was still the only activity that they found themselves the most comfortable with
and also because it provided enough for them to survive on. In other words, fishing as an
occupation was a viable proposition, something that the fishers could bank on and even take
risks based upon it. This is the assurance that they would lose during the second wave of
migrations, and more particularly during the third wave.

The First Exodus from Burma and the Period of Strife

Everything went well till the advent of Second World War and the Japanese advances into
Burma. Trouble started in 1942 when the Japanese launched their Burma campaign in 1942
against the Allies to take control over the strategic Malacca Straits and the route to China. A
sizeable number of Indian migrants in Burma fled the country fearing the Japanese invasion,
taking the land route along the Arakan range9. The trek was to be long and hard, claiming many
lives, as the following excerpt from an article in The Hindu shows:

        “"People had to trek for miles through the Arakan range for days without food and water
        to reach Calcutta as there was no other means of transport available. Many old and weak
        people died on the way and they were buried in hurriedly dug holes or just left behind for
        the animals to feast upon, as they could not be cremated for fear of detection by the over-
        flying Japanese fighter planes. The fleeing migrants were treated as traitors and spies by
        both the Allied and Japanese forces and the unfortunate who were caught were tortured.
        The sick had to be deserted as they could not be carried because they would slow down
        the pace of returning home. Every batch of such repatriates had to cross the corpses of
        fellow repatriates with a few known faces among them. But they were helpless.”

Migration: The Second Wave (1950-1970)

In the second wave of migration took place in two phases: the first phase began around the time
of Indian Independence and continued up to early 1960s, and the second phase began when the
Indian immigrants in Burma were repatriated once and for all from that country in the mid-1960s.

The first phase: Push factors

In 1942, when the migrants reached their homes, the local conditions had not improved much
from the time when they had left – if anything, they got worse thanks to the Second World War.
This was the period when the Great Bengal Famine was taking a huge toll on lives not very far
from Srikakulam area and the impact of the famine was certainly being felt by the local
communities. There was an overall shortage of everything, including the barest necessities to
survive. To add to the troubles, the period between 1940 and 1945 was reportedly the worst in
terms of fishing in the area. This was not only because fish catches were poor (one might say

  The feelings of the Burmese –who had apparently treated the Indians quite well – when the Indians began to leave
their country in droves at a moment of crisis can only be conjectured, but going by what happened latter, could not
have been very positive.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

they were always poor), but also because the Second World War was a physical menace and
rumours abounded about the imminent invasion of the country from sea by the Axis forces. This
had a psychological impact upon the fishers who stopped fishing for long durations out of fear
that they would be the first to fall in case of an attack.

The combination of these various factors led to starvation in the fishing villages. Although the
government did make some efforts to provide relief to the starving population, they seldom
reached the relatively isolated, and often inaccessible, fishing villages of this area. The older
fishers recall that this led to some starvation deaths, though no record exists of such incidents.

Thus, upon their perilous return from Burma, the repatriates discovered that there was more – not
less – need for people to move out than previously. In any case, the repatriates had few hopes of
being able to get back into fishing. Prolonged stay away from fishing – over 30 years in some
cases – had meant that they could not venture into fishing upon their return. That at least a few of
them were quite wealthy before being evicted from Burma meant that they could not easily
reconcile themselves to fishing as an occupation anymore. In fact, the Palle migrants from the
Central Delta areas so completely lost touch with fishing that they decided to settle down as
agriculturists in the erstwhile Ganjam and Vizagapatam districts (the current Ganjam district in
Orissa and Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh), a profession that they continue to practice
even now10. For a large majority of ex-migrants, however, the solutions were not so easy to come
by, and they had to begin a frantic search for new opportunities.

Not bound anymore either professionally or socially to their particular culture, the fishers
spanned out far and wide in search of employment and adapted themselves to a wide variety of
roles. It was the urban areas – Srikakulam, Vizagapatam, Cuttack, Brahmapur, Calcutta,
Rajahmundry and Vijayawada – that provided them work and sanctuary. Older fishers calculate
that, during this period, nearly half the fishing population had left the villages along with their
belongings, moving inland in search of work, and this included many recent Burmese repatriates
as well. It was a period of strife, when the traditional bonds provided no relief and were
extremely weak, and survival at any cost was the only thing that mattered. For the first time, the
constraints of caste failed to stop the refugees from taking to a wide range of livelihoods even
within the area. Many fishers ended up in towns like Srikakulam in non-conventional livelihoods
like manual labour, rickshaw pulling, head-loading, petty trade, and in some extreme cases,
begging. Their successors are still to be seen in Srikakulam town working as tailors, rickshaw
pullers, cart and car drivers, vegetable vendors, manual labourers and mechanics in local
workshops. Many of the migrants to urban areas worked as construction labourers. Some 5000
fishers settled inland, near rivers, tanks and lakes, taking up fishing in a new milieu.

Thus, for at least some of the fishers who moved out, this phase of migration continuously
remained one driven more by push factors rather than by any attraction that the new activities
held. If anything, it only led to a decline in the social condition of the fishers. As soon as the war
scare subsided, the scarcities were overcome and the country became independent, the fishers
began to return to their villages. It is estimated that a quarter of the original migrants returned to
take up fishing once again in their villages. With some of the migrants who did not return to their

  The ban on intermarriage with the migrants is said to have made them virtual outcastes, forcing them to move out
of the area completely (BLN Raju, pers.comm; Satyanarayana, 2003).

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

native villages after the crisis had blown over finding opportunities in the industries
mushrooming in urban areas in the newly Independent India, the pressure on local resources was
less and a semblance of tranquillity may have returned to the villages.

Pull Factors: Industrialisation and Work Opportunities for Srikakulam Fishers

While some fishers discovered migration to be a dispiriting experience and went back to fishing,
a large majority, particularly the recent repatriates from Burma, found the path of rapid
industrialisation that India took up in the post-Independence period to be a heaven-sent
opportunity. They entered a diversity of occupations with zeal, making a clean break with fishing
and seasonal fluctuations once and for all.

During the period of wandering in the early 1950s in search of employment, some of the
migrants „discovered‟ Gujarat. The new Kandla Port in Gujarat had begun operations during the
1960s, and some of the fishers from Srikakulam found regular employment in Kandla Port Trust,
while many others took up work as manual labourers. This appears to have opened the floodgates
for fresh influx of people from Srikakulam district – initially, relations and friends of the people
who had found employment, followed later by all – seeking work in Gujarat. Those who could
not find work in the Port Trust managed to diversify and obtain employment in the flourishing
wood industry at places like Gandhidham, Ahmadabad, and Jamnagar. A few managed to find
work in welding works and a variety of other work not generally related to fishing or fisheries.
The people who thus managed to find work became permanent settlers in due course, and over
time, have come to belong more to Gujarat than to Andhra Pradesh where they come visiting
relatively infrequently.

Another migratory path took the Srikakulam fishers to the north-eastern parts of India: many
fishers moved to Assam, where some of them managed to be absorbed into plantation work,
while some others found work in coal mines and Railways. Many migrants – for example, many
former fishers from Umilada and Janganadhapuram – took up work as professional scavengers in
Assam and Calcutta, jobs they continue to hold to this day.

Yet another migration stream involved people joining in large numbers as Seamen (sailors) on
mercantile ships. This is a long standing tradition amongst the Srikakulam fishers and a majority
of seamen in Merchant Navy hailing from Andhra Pradesh originate in Srikakulam district. The
activity might have started at the time of Second World War when the local ports,
Kalingapatnam and Baruva, were in operation (see also Suryanarayana 1977: 41-42). This study
showed that many people continue to undergo seamanship training and are qualified seamen11.
Although their jobs took the seamen long distances around the globe, they keep their families in
their native villages, and visit them during holidays. Generally, a seaman works continuously for
a year or two before coming back for a short or prolonged period depending on his disposition
and opportunities. The seamen are generally considered to be well off in the fishing communities,
although they are also a cause for concern because of their notoriously licentious behaviour
while off duty. Between 1960 and 1970, many more fishers from Srikakulam would migrate to

  Until early 1990s, the training was imparted by TS Mekhala, based at Visakhapatnam, but when Mekhala was
decommissioned, people have switched to Mumbai for taking the seamanship training.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

different places around the country, and settle down into a wide variety of occupations. Some of
the places where the fishers settled in sizeable numbers were:

      Bhilai – working as labourers in the steel industry
      Bilaspur and Raipur – as labourers in railways and in handling iron ore
      Kolkata - working as cleaners and scavengers and in a variety of other employments

An important migration stream from the early 1970s was to the Andaman Islands. The Central
Government encouraged the fishers from Srikakulam district to settle down in the Andaman
Islands in the 1970s in an effort to improve the fisheries of the islands and provided the migrants
with incentives like free accommodation and assets for fishing. Mostly fishers from Sompeta,
Kaviti and Mandasa mandals took advantage of the programme, and took their families along
with them. They were provided with the traditional Burmese-type boats called Durga, fishing
gears and even some working capital assistance to begin fishing operations. Of all the migratory
routes that the fishers of Srikakulam have undertaken over the decades, the migration to
Andamans is considered to be the best not only because it allowed the fishers to shift into an
occupation that they understood well, but also made them the owners of their fleet, besides
providing them with free accommodation and other perks (including concessions for travel).

The migrant experience in the second wave

An important characteristic of migration during this period was that most of migrants would not
return to Srikakulam anymore, except may be as occasional visitors. Many entered regular
salaried employment or at least jobs that assured them a consistent income. Even if they had
reasons to grumble about their incomes, they knew that it was at least more sustainable than
going back to Srikakulam. A strong strain of distaste for fishing as a livelihood activity ran
through their worldview and whatever their own upbringing, they made sure that their children
were educated and entered into salaried employment, fishing being the last thing on their mind as
a livelihood option for their children. At the same time, the strong ties to their native
communities persisted well into the 1990s and their role as the „resident migrant community‟
helped a number of their kinsmen to move into the area and find their feet in the initial stages.

The second phase: Final exodus from Burma

Just when things began to return to normalcy – or whatever passed for normalcy in a difficult
region like Srikakulam – the migrants who had chosen to remain in Burma through the Second
World War and flourished in the aftermath were forced to go back to India by a hostile
government. To quote The Hindu story again:

       “The Indians who stayed back once again flourished until 1960, when the country was
       taken over by the military junta leader, General Ne Win in a violent coup. Overnight the
       migrants who were regarded as their own people by the Burmese became aliens.

       "Suddenly the lovable and affable Burmese community started to treat us with disdain.
       The respect we commanded for the only reason that Lord Buddha was born in India
       turned into deep-rooted hatred. We were asked to pay more for everything including for

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

         public transport. Though there was no violence inflicted on us, the message was stern and
         threatening and we were left with no other alternative than to come back to India leaving
         behind all our properties," says the State president of Burma Andhra Repatriates Central
         Association, M. Arjuna Rao.

         “That was the beginning of another exodus.”

This exodus would effectively sever the Burmese connection once and for all. Now, nearly forty
years after the last Indians were repatriated from Burma, the only traces of Burmese influence to
be seen are in the names of colonies where the repatriates first settled, which are called „Burma
Colony‟ or „Rangampeta‟ (Rangam being the local corruption of Rangoon).

The Srikakulam Uprisings and the Era of Stability: 1970s and 1980s

The period when the final batch of repatriates from Burma returned to their native place was a
period of turmoil in Srikakulam. While this is nothing new as the district was perpetually crisis-
prone, this particular turmoil had a different flavour. The fact that industrialisation was providing
opportunities for migrants from Srikakulam during 1950s and 1960s masked a serious problem:
that the district itself had not been receiving its due in terms of employment generation or
poverty alleviation. If anything, the post-Independence period saw even more exploitation of the
tribal communities and loss of work opportunities for agricultural workers. The fresh influx of
repatriates dispossessed of virtually everything they had earned in a lifetime could not but have
added to the discontent.

Thus, the fact that Srikakulam provided the most active – and violent – backdrop for the Naxalite
uprisings in the late-1960s and early-1970s is no mere accident. Support for the uprising came
from virtually all sections of society – tribal communities, fishers, agriculturists, intelligentsia
and urban middle-classes – indicating widespread popular discontent with the existing conditions,
although the role played by the fishers in the movement was not very strong12.

After the uprisings were finally and brutally crushed, it became apparent that it was necessary to
address the economic causes of discontent more actively in order to avoid such future
conflagrations. Thus, in the aftermath of the uprisings, Srikakulam began to receive more
attention in terms of development assistance. It was only in the 1970s and 1980s that some real
changes aimed at improving the quality of life were felt in the district. Many fishing villages
received a facelift during the period and got linked to the mainstream. Construction of permanent
housing for fishers had been an important development that reduced their vulnerability to natural
disasters significantly. Electricity, roads and transport services came into the fishing villages.
Schools, health centres and water became accessible, though not always adequate. One would
only need to refer to the comprehensive Census Study of Mofus Bandar village in early 1960s
and visit the village now to see how radically the conditions have changed over the last four

  Lack of well organised fishworker organisations is cited by many fishers as a reason for the relatively weak
participation in the uprising. In fact, there were efforts to involve the fishers in the struggle towards the later phase,
but the movement had already been much weakened by then (Source: Kare Nagabhushanam, Budagotlapalem).

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

It was also the period when the modernisation drive in the fisheries sector finally reached the
fishing communities of Srikakulam, changing them once and for all.

Modernisation of Indian fisheries and Srikakulam fishers

On the professional front, the 1960s and 1970s were the period when the „shrimp gold rush‟
gained momentum on the east coast of India and the fisheries sector in the region began to be
„modernised‟. The initial period of this boom saw a remarkable growth in the economy – the
subsistence based fishing economy in the area became commercialised, and more importantly,
globalised, with shrimp as its focus. Even the artisanal craft reaped the benefits of government
programmes. Motorisation of traditional craft and introduction of nylon was started around 1958.

Shifting to motorised boats was, according to a fisherman, like moving from bullock cart to a
motor car. The fishers no longer needed the fish to come to them; they could go after the fish
themselves. The relatively virgin fishing grounds yielded good catches and words like „fish
famine‟ receded into the background. Although frequent engine repairs began to drain a lot of
money, no one complained because the additional costs were more than adequately compensated
by the additional returns. In the 1980s, new boats like the FRP beach landing crafts (BLC) were
provided to the fishers on favourable terms either individually or through cooperatives. There
was even an attempt at building a fishing harbour at Bhavanapadu in the district, which would
have expedited the process of modernisation of Srikakulam fisheries, had it not turned out to be
an engineering disaster.

The private sector also played an important role in popularizing modern fishing methods and
thus focusing the attention of fishers along particular directions of growth. When the fishing
grounds off Srikakulam proved rich in terms of shrimp catches and the traditional net used by the
artisanal fishers for capturing shrimp – the iragavala – was found to be inadequate to capture
high-value shrimp species, the traders brought nylon gill nets, which had proved their efficiency
in catching prawns in Tamil Nadu and introduced them to the fishers of northern coastal Andhra
Pradesh during 1968-69.

The introduction of bottom-set gillnets meant a steep jump in the catches of white shrimp
(Penaeus indicus), also called – appropriately enough – as Dollar Prawn, the price of which
increased from Rs 5 per kg in 1969 to Rs 30 by 1976, and continued to grow even faster in the
subsequent years, aided in no small measure by the periodical devaluation of the rupee against
the dollar. With additional returns, the fishers too increased their fishing effort and the area of
operation of the Teppa extended up to 20 fathoms. It was a period when the more extensively
they fished, the more shrimp they managed to catch.

During the mid-1980s, another revolutionary new net, the trammel net (more widely known as
the „disco net‟), arrived on the scene, once again courtesy the traders who had seen its efficacy in
catching shrimp in Tamil Nadu. The middle-layer in this three-layered net was later rigged with
what is called „zero-webbing‟ which allowed the net to harvest bumper catches of shrimp in one
cycle, but also confined the operation of the middle layer to single use. The age of „use-and-
throw‟ arrived in fisheries and the fishermen did not mind that either.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

With increased efficiency, traders paid huge advances to the fishers in return for their catches. As
the number of traders increased, so did their interest in paying good advances to hold on to as
many suppliers as they could. With increased demand for shrimp and the consequent support
forthcoming from various sources for increasing production, the numbers of boats increased and
so did the work opportunities for fishers. Even if the traders pocketed a large chunk of the profits,
the fishers‟ share was still very good and grew constantly. All this meant that the fishers earned
well during this period, and while that did not exactly mean prosperity for all, it at least meant
self-sufficiency of sorts for at least a few.

Modernisation of fisheries, it appeared, solved a very old problem for the fishers of Srikakulam
district. The fishers indicate that these two decades were the first time in over a century that they
did not need to migrate for survival. Although no statistics are available, there may have been an
in-migration during this period, which included not only fishers who had been working in non-
traditional and low-paying jobs but even a few people from non-fishing castes who moved into
the sector and found a niche for themselves in the export market chains. Obviously, there were
out-migrations even during this period – there never appears to have been a period when there
was no out-migration – but they were more to take advantages of good opportunities, i.e.
migrations of the accumulative sort rather than the more familiar survival variety. The scale,
severity and impact of migrations during this period can be considered to be marginal.

Another strand of migration – which began with the movement of some fishers to salaried
employment during the 1960s – that became strengthened during the period was that of the
newly educated youth into a variety of „respectable professions‟ – i.e., salaried employment –
including teaching and clerical jobs in the government, a process that received a boost by the
emergence of a newly rich class of entrepreneurs in the fishing villages, who could afford to send
their children to schools, as well as the favourable Reservation policies of the government.

Migration: The Third Wave (1985-Ongoing)

Through the 1990s, reports of fishers from Srikakulam district migrating to distant states like
Gujarat and Goa to work in a range of occupations appeared with increasing frequency in the
vernacular press. By late-1990s, it was clear that the migrations were neither a temporary
phenomenon to tide over adverse local conditions (as widely assumed) nor confined to a few
people. People moved out in large numbers into a wide variety of occupations within and outside
the state and showed no evident signs of being in a hurry to come back to their primary
occupations. Many fishers have come to view their traditional fishing operations as a temporary
arrangement as they waited for the opportunity to return to their „primary occupation‟ in another
area. The sea beaches in many fishing villages acquired the well earned epithet of „burial
grounds for boats‟.

An important issue to be sorted out about the current spate of migrations is to decide whether this
is the outcome of the new opportunities that have opened in recent times for the fishers to
diversify or a compulsion as a result of adverse local conditions. As usual, there are strong
arguments on both sides, one viewpoint favouring the „migration-as-opportunity‟ strand, while
others take the „migration-as-compulsion‟ point of view. The perceptions of the fishers
themselves are rather mixed, but do give some indications.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The Push Factors

A major difference with the previous migrations concerns the relative influence of „push‟ and
„pull‟ factors. In the first two waves of migration from Srikakulam, although the „push‟ factors
had an influencing role, they worked in tandem with the „pull‟ factors. In due course, it was the
pull factors – availability of opportunities, existence of a resident migrant community and scope
for accumulation – that took precedence over the push factors.

However, in the latest wave of migration the „pull‟ factors are at best nominal – the terms and
conditions of work remain not only poor, but also uncertain by the migrants‟ own standards,
while the „push‟ factors continue to remain strong and increasingly so over time. The field study
has come up with a number of „push factors‟ to reason why migration has become so rampant in
the 1980s and 1990s, and for the purpose of this report, only those factors pertaining directly to
fishing activity will be summarised here under three categories: (i) declining availability of
natural resources like fish, waterbodies, sea beaches and coastal vegetation; (ii) increasing
production costs and indebtedness; and (iii) uncertainties related to marketing. Some of the other
factors encouraging migration – such as hostile geographical and natural conditions, lack of
opportunities for diversification within the district and the influence of increasing literacy – have
been touched upon in the foregoing sections and hence will not be discussed again.

The more important push factors in the latest phase of migrations owe their origin to man-made
policies and processes. As indicated in the foregoing section, the focus of development – whether
in fostering livelihoods or in improving general quality of life – has been on creating physical
infrastructure like roads, buildings, houses, cyclone shelters, electricity facilities, and less on
nurturing the people‟s capacity and ability to diversify or harnessing traditional knowledge and
skills. This emphasis on infrastructure may have been dictated by the fact that physical assets are
visible and can be easily set up, whereas developing the capacity of the people in terms of their
awareness and preparedness is not only difficult to implement, but – because it raises questions
related to empowerment and participation in decision-making – also problematic.

During the first few years of modernisation of fisheries sector, fishing operations yielded very
good catches simply because the fishing grounds had hitherto not been tapped at all. The good
results were taken to mean an indication of the success of the technologies and the focus of
development remained firmly on the introduction of more efficient technologies to extract more
catches. The carrying capacity of the natural systems on which people depended has not been
taken into consideration and the only thing that apparently mattered was to increase the
harvesting capacity at any cost. The result has been that, by early 1980s, the technologies proved
to be too efficient and the variety, quantity, size and age range of the fish catches – particularly
of the commercially important species – began to come down. The fishermen noted that some
local species like the catfish (Arius sona), Lactarius lactarius, wolf-herring (silver bar fish;
Chirocentrus dorab), sawfish (Pristis cuspidatus) have totally disappeared from the catches,
while the size and quantity of other important species – pomfrets, sea perch, seer and, perhaps
more significantly, shrimp (the maximum count size came down from 5 to 20 in about 15 years)
– came down too.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

A parallel development with the promotion of new fishing techniques has been that the largely
resource-poor fishing communities needed external support to obtain the new technologies
(although they were subsidised to some extent) and, lacking access to institutional credit,
depended on private finance for the most part. This would mean paying a huge price – both
direct and indirect as well as in the short term and the long term. With increased indebtedness,
there was a focus on high value species to the exclusion of everything else and, in no time, the
fishing operations were more or less shrimp-oriented and export-centred. On the other hand,
whereas earlier the fishers could take whatever they had caught as their income because it
involved very little investment in monetary terms, they now needed to pay the cost of operations
– working out to over 60 percent of the gross returns – before taking their share. In other words,
if the fishers now needed to earn seven to ten times as much as they did previously to retain the
same margins. The consistent increase in value of fish in the markets helped to overcome the
inflation and a gradual fall in the quantum of catches.

While the development focused on creating physical infrastructure and assets, one cannot say
that their spread is either uniform or sufficient across the region. Many villages in Srikakulam
district obtained new boats and nets, but the landing, preservation, processing and transport
systems remained as rudimentary as they had been before Independence. Because the fishing
villages were often far-flung and the economies of scale did not encourage large investment on
support infrastructure, more efficient means of exploitation did not always translate into bigger
profits. In other words, the fishers entered into the modernisation phase without having full
access to all that it necessitated – credit, means of transport and preservation, to cite just three –
and they depended on the trader-middlemen for reaching the distant markets.

The distance from the landing centre to the nearest processing factory determined the price paid
for shrimp, because the longer the distance, the more intermediaries were involved in collection
and transport. Even at an average of 10 percent margin from one intermediate to another, the
fishers in many villages hardly received half the price paid out by the processing factories. To
add to the problems, the international fluctuations in the value of shrimp began to hurt fishing
operations from about mid-1990s. Until then, the cost of production of shrimp remained well
beneath the price it fetched for the producer. But raising costs of fuel, poor catches that
necessitated extra effort, increasing number of unsuccessful fishing trips and cost of maintenance
of boats and engines led to a levelling of costs and returns, so a fluctuation in shrimp prices
meant a loss although the problem in the artisanal sector was not as serious as it was in the
mechanised one, where the cost of operations had gone up even more through the 1980s and

Thus, the three major issues that have faced the fishers from the 1980s are: uncertainties related
to capture operations (coupled with a perceptible decline in fish catches), over-capitalisation of
effort and frequent market fluctuations (particularly in the export sector). Permanent dependence
on fishing was no longer considered possible locally, and the fishers had begun to feel the need
to explore alternatives once again by late 1980s.

The more serious problem with the particular pattern of development – with its emphasis on
growth, shrimp and export markets – is that it affected virtually everyone in the sector
irrespective of their actual role and involvement in the process. Thus, even non-motorised

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

wooden catamarans could not anymore remain „traditional‟, concentrating on a few small
pelagics in the inshore waters not only because of the competition for fishing grounds with
motorised and mechanised fleets but also because there was more money to be had in targeting
expensive varieties. As the number of varieties of species targeted was reduced as a result of
fishing focused on specific varieties of high quality fish which were not for sale locally, the
traditional fish processors and petty fish traders (who were mostly women and accounted for a
sizeable proportion of fish landings in a village until then) lost out their source of livelihood,
while the local people‟s access to cheap fish – which were dried and preserved through the lean
months, offering some sort of protection against hunger – declined too.

As competition for fishing grounds mounted and the trawling fleets from their bases in
Visakhapatnam and Kakinada encroached into the inshore waters through the 1980s, many
traditional operations suffered very badly and trawlers came to be looked upon as „Enemy
Number One‟ in many fishing villages, although that did not translate into any action against the
marauders. At least a few fishing villages completely lost out and moved out of fishing mainly as
a result of encroachment by trawlers, which were themselves facing dire straits as shrimp catches
dwindled over the years.

The field studies also threw up a number of causes that contributed to making fishing a non-
viable proposition for a number of fishermen in the district. Some of these include:

   Increased competition within the artisanal sector (due to increased population and fishing
    fleet in the artisanal sector – not an important feature) although trawlers are the more serious
   Destructive fishing practices (discards, small mesh sizes, shrimp seed collection, selective
    fishing practices);
   Influence of external factors (pollution: industrial and pharmaceutical effluents in the
    southern zone and the fishers have reported reduced catches as a result; fertiliser plant near
    Srikakulam discharges into the Nagavali hurting a number of villages downstream)
   Natural causes (fish famines; failure of rains over successive years)
   Declining access to natural waterbodies for traditional fishing operations: Budagotlapalem:
    backwaters (gedda) taken over by aquaculturists who refuse to acknowledge traditional use
   Creek and river mouths silted up reducing access to fishers – Vamsadhara river mouth silted
    up reducing access to the sea for the villages upstream; fishing harbour contributes to silting
    up in Bhavanapadu; In Kaviti mandal, silting up at the river-mouth is complemented by
    erosion near the village on the other side, hurting the fishers both ways.
   Restricted access to natural coastal vegetation for fishing communities, which depended on
    the casuarina plantations for firewood, house construction, fishing tools like oars, etc., as a
    result of the Forest Department taking them over. Joint Forest Management – where practised
    – does not compensate the loss.

Coupled with the increasing unsustainability of fishing operations is the endemic feature of the
district: lack of alternative livelihood options within the area or in the neighbourhood. Few
fishers had assets, and with increasing costs, the assets tended to concentrate in fewer hands than
before. The hard working conditions in the local areas looked harder in the face of these changes.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The fact of mass migration of active fishers, coupled with clear evidence of occupational
diversification taking place at the individual level (i.e., a fisherman working in a range of
activities at different times of the year) as well as the household level (i.e., the family members
of a fisher working in different occupations through the year) even within the region, give
support to the contention that the primary sector occupations are showing signs of fatigue and
decreasing viability. As people draw their sustenance from a variety of occupations not
necessarily related to fishing, their affiliation to fishing has been weakening and terms like
„fishing household‟ are becoming redundant. The factors contributing to this, though widely
discussed, have not been explored in much detail and hence the policy responses to stem the tide
have remained weak.

That this crisis is not confined to fisheries is apparent from the fact that stories of farmers or
secondary producers in the state committing suicide appear in the newspapers with increasing
frequency. Invariably, the cause of death in all cases appears to be due to failing incomes and
increasing vulnerability. Unable to meet the basic subsistence needs from what they earn and
with the prospect of a dire future before them, the farmers find it easier to die than live. It has
become common for the agricultural workers to migrate seasonally to the more prosperous
central coastal districts like East and West Godavari and Krishna to work in agriculture. Several
people also migrate to urban areas both within and outside the state, taking up new occupations
such as rickshaw pulling, carrying weights or building labour. While the conditions in the fishing
sector have not quite reached such drastic proportions as forcing people to take their lives, the
impact on fishers is no less significant, both in terms of magnitude and intensity, and they have
been in the forefront in boarding the migration bandwagon.

A visit to the fishing villages in Srikakulam thus shows up a paradox: people live in far better
conditions than they ever did, with good access to basic necessities like permanent houses,
electricity, road transport, water, schools, hospitals and cyclone shelters etc, but the feeling of
vulnerability among the people also is very palpable. The improvement in the living conditions is
complemented by a corresponding decrease in their control over their livelihoods and, thus, over
their lives. The sight of a number of fishing boats half buried in the sand due to non-usage for a
long time moved a development worker to call the sea beaches in Srikakulam as „boat burial

Unlike in the past, when people had some choice in terms of entering or exiting from fishing
activity, their control over such decisions – or even in matters such as what species to target –
has slipped from their hands. While the influence of „traditional‟ causes like fluctuations in
fisheries and modern processes like „globalisation‟ in bringing about some of these changes
cannot be ruled out, the contributing factors certainly have their roots also in the framework of
development adopted for fisheries sector in Independent India.

The Pull Factors

The most important advantage the fishers feel about mechanised fishing in Gujarat is that it pays
a regular monthly salary. For the members of a community that has for centuries lived under
uncertainty about where their next day‟s meal was going to come from, it is almost impossible to
describe how grand the prospect of earning regular monthly wages looks. There is an almost

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

unanimous agreement among all the migrants – and their family members – that this assured
payment of monthly wages irrespective of the actual catches is the most important reason for
undertaking migration. It is widely felt that there is no scope for savings from the local fishing
even if the returns are sizeable because the amount is spent on the same day whether for
legitimate reasons or not. Income received monthly can be saved and utilized for the family
needs and also to clear debts already taken for domestic purpose.

It is for this reason too that the fishers are reluctant to work on the trawlers in Andhra Pradesh
and Orissa: they pay a share instead of a fixed wage. As the one reason for their departure from
their village is to avoid the uncertainty of returns, they are certainly happier working on the
trawlers in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa which pay a fixed monthly wage. It is only when the
trawlers are owned by their relatives or when the fishermen have some other obligation to their
owners that they agree to work in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa for a share in the returns; otherwise
it is a rare occurrence indeed.

Then there is also the predilection to move out of small-scale fishing operations not only because
of the associated uncertainties, but also due to the feeling among the literate fishers that
traditional fishing is an undignified activity. They would far rather prefer to sit idle than go
fishing, as many a vexed parent complains bitterly. It was this new generation of fishers who are
at the forefront of new migrants. For all the problems they have faced with mechanised trawling
in the nearshore waters, the artisanal fishers cannot overcome their admiration for the boats and
consider working on one of them as a source of prestige. A simple indicator is that the dowry
that a crewmember on a mechanised boat gets is much higher than that a motorised crewmember
would command. The fact that mechanised boats operate from sophisticated fishing harbours in
urban centres adds to the charm.

A very important point the fishers keep making about the migration to Gujarat to work on the
mechanised boats is that mechanisation makes the fishing operations much easier. Srikakulam
coast is notoriously difficult to negotiate at the best of times and requires much energy and hard
work to cross – even then, one can regularly see catamarans fully laden with fish and equipment
casually overturning even as they try to approach the shore. The non-motorised operations also
meant using oars to reach fishing grounds and operating the nets manually and with mechanised
fishing the burden of hard work has been overcome. The period of employment locally is
uncertain while the employment at the other places is for a comparatively longer period. For
instance, the Gujarat fishing offers more than 8 months of work in a year.

The magnitude, details and impacts of this wave of migration will form the subject of the next
three chapters.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS


Extent of migration from the district

The 1980s – and even more importantly, the 1990s – were the period when the fishermen
increasingly opted for migration. There has been an increase in the number of migrants at an
average rate of 10 percent a year over the last decade, indicating that the total number of
migrants has more than doubled in the last eight to ten years.

The total marine fishermen population in the district is 117 200. Of these, 25 582 or 22% are
active fishermen. During 2002-3, as per this study, the total number of fishers undertaking
occupational migration within fisheries is 11 026 and those moving into other occupations added
another 3 364. Thus a total of 14 390 fishers in the state have migrated during 2002-3,
accounting for 56% of the total active fishermen in the district. Migration within fisheries sector
accounts for 77 percent of the total migrants or 43 percent of the total active fishermen in the
district. Migration to other occupations accounts for 23 percent of the total migrants or 13
percent of the total active fishermen in the village. Detailed village-wise information on the
migrants in each coastal mandal in the district is given in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2.

                               Extent of migration from Srikakulam district

                         Fishers not                                Migration w ithin
                          migrating                                    fisheries
                            44%                                           43%

                                             Migration outside

Important streams of migration from Srikakulam district

The following is a brief summary of the different kinds of migration that the fishers in
Srikakulam have resorted to for different purposes over the last two decades. Some of these
streams had been followed by migrants of the second wave from 1960s and 1970s, but because
of the fresh influx of migrants, it is no longer possible to tell one from the other:

Working in fishing sector outside Andhra Pradesh:

      Gujarat: (Veraval, Porbandar, Mangrole) – work on mechanised boats on monthly salaries
      Maharshtra:(Uddhan, Madakollivada) – work on mechanised boats involved in dhol-net
    fishing and trawling on monthly salaries

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

  Goa: (Madgaon, Vasco da Gama etc) – work as crew in ring-net operations and in trawling
 on monthly wages. Some people work as net menders.
 The Andamans: Migration ended in 1970s and no fresh migrants reported in recent times.
 Orissa: (Balasore and Paradeep) – work on trawlers and gill netters on share basis; not very
 significant in terms of numbers.

Working in fishing sector within Andhra Pradesh:

   Visakhapatnam and Kakinada – work on trawlers as crew on share basis; not very significant.

As wage labourers other than fishing outside Andhra Pradesh:

  Gujarat: Kandla Port – general cargo loading and unloading work
  Gujarat: Gandhidham, Ahemadabad and Jamnagar – wood cutting in saw mills and in
 welding works
 Assam – wage labour in plantations, coalmines and railways.
 Bihar – in Bhilai Steel Plant and ancillary activities connected with the Steel Plant.
 Madhya Pradesh: (Bilaspur and Raipur) – in handling iron oar and as railway labour.
 West Bengal: (Kolkata) a wide range of activities, including scavenging.
 Tamil Nadu (Chennai): manual labour and earthwork.
 Orissa (Cuttack, Berhampur and Bhubaneswar) - mostly as rickshaw pullers; the numbers are
 not significant

The numbers of migrants in Assam, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are difficult to ascertain
as they go back a long time and are dispersed too thinly across vast areas.

As wage labourers other than fishing outside the district but within Andhra Pradesh:

  Vijayawada, Rajahmundry and Visakhapatnam – for rickshaw pulling; some people also
 work as labourers in earthwork and building construction; the numbers are not very significant.
 Gudivada – for agricultural labour work on daily wages; work is confined to 30-40 days in a
 year, hence not a significant option for diversification.

Simple geographical migration – i.e. fishers migrating with their craft and tackle to conduct
fishing elsewhere – is a rare occurrence and is confined to a few fishers moving into the Chilika
area in Orissa during some parts of the year. Similarly, very few people migrate to work in the
same kind of activity as they are used to back in their villages – invariably, there is a subtle to
major shift in occupation even when it is within the same sector. Some fishers go to places in
Orissa like Puri, Konark, Balasore and Paradeep to work on the traditional crafts, but the extent
of this migration is inconsequential. Intra-district migration is confined to a few people from
villages located to the south of Nagavali river mouth moving along with their teppas to the zone
between Guppidipeta in Polaki Mandal and the south of River Mahendratanaya during June-July
period, when shrimp fishing there is considered to be very productive. Of late, as the shrimp
catches declined, even this movement has reportedly decreased. Considering their little overall
importance, simple geographic migrations have not been covered in this study.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Diversification within the district:

  Fisherwomen work as agricultural labourers, basket and rope makers, forest-produce
 collectors, horticulture labourers, etc. As indicated, this study concentrated on the migration of
 active fishers and this migration stream – though extremely important – was not explored.
 Hammock-sellers: One particularly enterprising section of the fishers took to making cradles
 (hammocks) with net webbing, and found a very good reception to the hammocks in urban
 areas within and outside the state including in far-flung states like Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and
 Tamil Nadu. Manufacturing and selling hammocks became a very good business for a large
 number of fishers for a while, but as more and more people entered the business, the market
 slumped. It is still carried on by a significant number of people from the coastal areas of
 Srikakulam district. Studies indicate that the hammock-sellers are at least better off than their
 counterparts in fishing business.

Distribution of migrants according to destination

The state-wise break-up of the 11 026 fishers, who migrated to fisheries related occupations in
other areas, is as follows:

     State to which migrated           Number of people migrated       Percentage of migration
     Gujarat                                     4755                            43
     Maharashtra                                 2997                            27
     Goa                                         1125                            10
     Within Andhra Pradesh                       1145                            11
     Orissa                                      1004                             9
     Total                                      11026                           100

The break-up of the 3 359 fishers who migrated to non-fishing related occupations within and
outside the state are as follows:

    State to which migrated              Number of people migrated        Percentage of migration
    Within Andhra Pradesh                          1470                             44
    (hammock trade)
    Gujarat                                            388                           12
    Assam                                              416                           12
    Bhilai                                             200                            6
    West Bengal                                        190                            6
    Other areas                                        695                           20
    Total                                             3359                          100

The last category of „other migrants‟, constituting a fifth of the migrants in the non-fishing
category are spread in a wide range of activities all over the country with each category forming
only a fraction of the total migrants and making it too difficult to explore their livelihood profiles
in any great detail.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The percentages of overall migrations for fishing and non-fishing to different states from
Srikakulam district are shown below13:

                    Percentage of migrants in different migration streams from Srikakulam

                                  3%                                                     Gujarat fishing
                             3%                                                          Maharashtra fishing
                                                                                         Goa fishing
                       10%                                                               Within AP fishing
                                                                                         Orissa fishing
                                                                                         AP non-fishing
                                                                                         Gujarat non-fishing
                      7%                                                                 Assam non-fishing
                                                                                         Bhilai non-fishing
                                                                                         West Bengal-non-fishing
                           8%                                                            Other areas-non-fishing

                                       8%                     21%

An interesting sidelight that emerges from the analysis of the quantitative information is that the
exodus to the Gulf countries, which forms one of the most important migratory streams
elsewhere in the state (and more outstandingly on the West Coast), accounts for a very tiny
minority of people – only five people out of more than 16 000 migrants from the fishing
communities are reported to have gone to the Gulf countries (Dubai).

Geographical origins of fishers pursuing different migration streams

As one analyses the origins of different streams of migration, one is struck by the fact that
particular mandals and villages dominate in each migratory stream, indicating the influence of
kinship relations strengthening the migratory routes along particular channels. For instance, as
the original migrants to Gujarat predominantly hailed from the southern parts of the district (for
what reason, one can only conjecture now), the current path of migration to Gujarat fisheries is
also dominated by the southern fishers. The following paragraphs will demonstrate the trend
more clearly.

The fishers from the southern mandals, namely Ranasthalam, Etcherla, Srikakulum and Gara
dominated the numbers of people migrating to Gujarat, accounting for as many as 92 percent of
the total migrants. The remaining 8 percent came from Polaki, Santhabommali, Vajrapukothuru,

  It has to be noted that the numbers include only those of the active fishers, while in several cases migration –
particularly into non-fishing occupations – their family members too migrate along with the fishers and actively take
part in the work, but their numbers are not ascertainable.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Sompeta, Kaviti and Itchapuram mandals. Mandasa mandal does not appear to have contributed
any migrants to Gujarat.

Of the migrants to Maharashtra, nearly 75 percent originated from two central mandals:
Santhabommali and Vajrapukothuru. Ranasthalam (7.5%), Sompeta (5%), Polaki (4%) and Gara
(3%), Kaviti (3%) and Ichhapuram (2%) are the other mandals which sent migrants to
Maharashtra. No migrants to Maharashtra have been reported from Etcherla, Srikakulum and
Mandasa mandals.

The fishermen of Vajrapukothuru top the number of migrants to Goa, constituting 64 percent of
total from the district. Sompeta (12%), Santhabommali (9%), Kaviti (7%), and Gara, Polaki and
Ichhapuram (less than 3 percent each) complete the remaining.

The migration to Andaman Islands is dominated by the fishermen from Sompeta mandal, who
constitute about 60% of the total migrants to the Andaman. The next highest numbers of
migrants came from Kaviti (28%) and Mandasa (11%). The remaining one percent is shared
between Santhabommali, Vajrapukothuru and Ichhapuram mandals. The five southern mandals
are conspicuous by their absence in this migration stream.

Migration to Orissa for fishing accounts for only 8% of the total migration for fishing from the
district and is reported from all mandals except Ichhapuram (which, interestingly, is the closest
mandal to Orissa, being on the border with the state) and Etcherla Mandals. The composition of
migrants is 31% from Santhabommali, 17% from Polaki, 16% from Vajrapukothuru, 10% each
from Sompeta and Mandasa Mandals, 7% from Kaviti and less than 3% each from Ranasthalam,
Srikakulum and Gara Mandals.

The occupational migration for fishing within the state is 9% of total occupational migration
from the district. All mandals except Ichhapuram are represented in the migration for fishing to
places outside the district but within the state of AP. Maximum number of migrants in this
category are from Gara mandal (39%), followed by Santhabommali (19%), Ranasthalam (9%),
Vajrapukothuru and Kaviti (9% each), Polaki (6%), Etcherla, Srikakulum and Sompeta (less than
3% each) and Mandasa (less than 1%).

A majority of the seamen are from Gara mandal (1312), followed by Polaki (116),
Santhabommali (110), Srikakulam (19) and V. Kothuru (5) and board ships at Mumbai and
Kolkata. Gara mandal, which accounts for a majority of the seamen reported from the district,
accounting for 1,312 persons out of a total of 1,597, also has the largest number of trained
seamen, who underwent training at SIFT, Kakinada and CIFNET, Visakhapatnam, which helps
them to obtain more regular employment driving boats for Port Department etc.

One issue that has not been explored in detail in this study has been the relation between the
agro-climatic conditions in a particular area or mandal in the district and the migratory streams
followed by the fishers from that area. It is possible, for instance, that an area which has a good
agricultural orientation or alternative sources of employment for the fishers might send fewer
people away than that which has a more hostile geography. Although the broad trends appear to

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

be more or less similar for all regions, it is possible that micro-studies will reveal more
interesting permutations.

Mandal-wise origin of migrants into different migration streams

The following table gives the mandal-wise details of migration by percentage of fishers
migrating, places to which generally migrated and the nature of work undertaken.

Name of the mandal       Percentage         Places of                     Nature of work
                         migration         migration
A. Migration within fishing sector on monthly wage basis
Ranasthalam, Gara,           37%        Gujarat: Veraval,    Crew on trawlers (shift from
Srikakulam, Etcharla                    Porbandar,           artisanal fishing to mechanised
                                        Mangrol, Okha        fishing)
Santhabommali,               23%        Maharashtra:         Gillnet and Dolnet fishing (shift
Vajrapu Kothuru                         Uttan,               from artisanal to mech fishing)
Vajrapu Kothuru               9%        Goa: Madgaon,        Trawling and ringnet fishing (shift
                                        Marmugao etc         from artisanal to mech fishing)
B. Migration within fishing sector on share basis
Sompeta, Kaviti              14%        Andaman Islands      Shift to another mode of
                                                             artisanal/motorised fishing
Santabommali, Polaki          8%         Orissa: Paradeep    Trawling and gillnetting (shift from
and Vajrapu Kothuru                      and Balasore        artisanal to mechanised fishing)
Gara, Santabommali,           9%         Andhra Pradesh:     Trawling (shift from artisanal to
Ranasthalam, Vajrapu                     Kakinada and        mechanised fishing)
Kothuru and Kaviti                       Visakhapatnam
C. Migration to non-fishing activities
Ranasthalam                  33%         Local               Cradle/hammock manufacture and
                                                             sale in all states
Polaki, Vajrapu              14%         Gujarat:            Working in saw mills
Kothuru, Sompeta,                        Gandhinagar,
Kaviti and Mandasa                       Ahmedabad,
                                         Jamnagar etc.
Gara, Polaki,                53%         Assam, Bhilai,      Rickshaw pulling, carrying weights,
Santabommali,                            Kolkata,            earthwork, construction labour,
Vajrapu Kothuru,                         Bhubaneswar,        industrial labour, scavenging etc.
Kaviti and Sompeta                       Cuttack,
                                         Vijayawada etc.

Going by the above, it is clear that the prior existence of a resident migrant community in the
new area is an important influencing factor in deciding the course that a migrant takes.
Historically, in almost all migrations – and not just those from Srikakulam – there has been
always a core group of pioneer migrants who settled down in a new area, acquired a place to

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

stand in the new world and played an important role as a motivation as well as a source of
support to the other migrants. It is this core group of permanent residents who ensured that the
seasonal migrants felt at home in the new area and managed to negotiate with the larger world
confidently in spite of being largely illiterate. In due course, the seasonal movement acquires a
rhythm of its own for the migrants as well as the host communities and this can be seen from the
accommodations and adaptations that the communities make to adjust to migration in socio-
economic as well as occupational terms14. Over time, the migrants from each area find security
in keeping to particular migratory paths both to avoid competition and also to draw comfort from
being with their own people.

  To quote Schömbucher (1986), „Spatial mobility in maritime societies is made possible by environmental
conditions [and] access to the sea is guaranteed in [the other locations where they migrate] as well‟. Bavinck (2001)
suggests that, in the open sea fishing systems, „fishing spaces are open to the entire population of artisanal fishermen
(which largely, although not entirely, coincides with caste). Not only do all artisanal fishermen benefit from
reciprocal access, but they also benefit equally. The similarity of fishing technology in the artisanal sector provides
each participant with a more or less identical point of departure. In conjunction, reciprocity and equality remain
important clauses in the artisanal fishermen‟s rule of open access.‟

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Of the various migration streams followed by the fishers of Srikakulam district, the migration to
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa to work on the mechanised fishing fleet are considered to be the
most important, accounting for 62 percent of the total migrants from the district. Migration to
fishing in Gujarat accounts for a third of the total migrants from the district, so much so that the
migrant fishers from Srikakulam dominate the trawl fisheries of Gujarat, and the activity is
entirely dependent upon them. The preference for the Andhra Pradesh fishermen arises from
their native skills in terms of marine fishing, their obedient behaviour and adaptability to any
situation irrespective of the hardships. They are known to be less quarrelsome among themselves
or with others, show sincere interest in their work and also for their capacity to work hard. The
temporary migrant condition does not allow them to have powerful associations to voice their
grievances; hence the chances of revolt are much less than with a local crew. Many labour laws
and other support services can be safely dispensed with in case of these poor migrants because of
their temporary resident status.

In this chapter, the migration to Gujarat fisheries will be discussed because of its importance to
the fishing communities of Srikakulam. Also, as the migrants operate from a few locations and
lead more or less similar modes of existence, this also helps to develop a generalised picture of
the „migrant condition‟ better than in any other stream.

Need for migrant labour in Gujarat fisheries15

Gujarat on the west coast of India has the longest coastline in India accounting for 20 percent of
the total coastline and 33 percent of the continental shelf. The state has the Gulf of Kacch, which
is a very important breeding ground for shrimp and other fish and tops the list of marine fish
producing states in the country. Being a largely vegetarian state, Gujarat fisheries have always
had a commercial orientation unlike other states where fish was an important food item.

The first phase (1968-1975)

Trawl fishing was launched in the state in 1962 for demonstration purposes and before the end of
the 1960s, a number of schemes to provide subsidies and loans were implemented by the state
government in order to increase shrimp production for export purposes. The development of
Veraval Port in the mid-1960s is said to have provided impetus to the growth of fishing
operations along this coast. From Veraval, trawling spread to other larger ports along the coast:
Mangrol, Porbandar, Dwarka-Rupen, and later Okha. As the local castes – the Kharwas and the
Moilas – were not proficient in marine fishing (their traditional links to sea being for trade than
for fishing), they chose to remain as shore-based manager preferring to employ labourers –
generally migrants from other areas including Andhra Pradesh – to run the actual operations.

Thus, there began the initial phase of recruitment into Gujarat fisheries from Andhra Pradesh.
For the Srikakulam fishers, the prior existence of a sizeable number of their kith and kin working
in a range of activities in the Port and other industries in Gujarat helped in making the first

     The information on fisheries in Gujarat in this section is drawn from Johnson (2001) and Nayak & Vijayan (2003).

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

contact with, and finding opportunities in, the fishing sector in Gujarat. However, the movement
to Gujarat was quite low key and the numbers of fishers who went to Gujarat remained
consistently low for at least a decade for reasons described in a previous chapter.

The second phase (1975-1995)

The next phase witnessed a rapid growth in numbers of fishing boats and, consequently, the
demand for workers. Between 1960-61 and 1997-98, there were 314 mechanised and 3 217 non-
mechanised boats, which grew to 15 698 and 8918 respectively by 1997-98, the mechanised
boats growing at 9.7 percent over the 36 years (Johnson, 2001). Trawlers increased from zero in
1961 to 1 781 in 1980-81 and 6 390 in 1997-98. Marine fish production in the state
correspondingly grew from 80 000 tonnes to over 700 000 tonnes during 1960-61 to 1997-98,
and the value of fish production climbed from 17.5 million rupees to 10.3 billion rupees during
the period. The period up to mid-1990s was a golden period for Gujarat fisheries and everyone
from the owners down to cooks onboard the fishing boats reaped sizeable rewards from trawling.
No wonder then that, as Johnson (2001) notes, the fishery of Gujarat kept expanding to the point
where it was experiencing labour shortage among traditional fishing castes and trawler owners
were compelled to hire crew from among the tribal groups of south Gujarat and from the fishing
communities of Andhra Pradesh. Captains of trawling boats – called Tindal16 – earned as much
as Rs. 12 000 per month, the crew earned from Rs 5 000 to 7 000 a month and even the cooks
earned Rs 4 000 a month. Good salaries were complemented by obligatory perks such as free
food to the crew “better than the crew can get at home” and cigarettes to entice the fishers.

For the fishers of Srikakulam, migrations into fishing in Gujarat at this time were of the
„supplementary‟ type because of two reasons: initially, the number of people involved in fishing
within Srikakulam had come down due to mass migration in the earlier period, so there was
enough opportunity for work for those remaining in the sector. Secondly, the fisheries remained
stable through the period and there was no perceptible upsets that forced people to seek
alternatives in a hurry. This was also the period when modernisation reached Srikakulam
fisheries, raising production and increasing incomes manifold for the fishers. Thus, luring the
fishers to work in Gujarat needed substantial incentives being offered to them. One lure that was
quite strong was the payment of fixed monthly wages, which was considered by the fishers to be
the most important sign of security. The first batch of fishers discovered the joys of salaried
employment and thenceforth, the fishers would disdain any employment that would not pay them
a regular salary, and this frequently included fishing itself.

This formed the second phase of initiation of fishers from Andhra Pradesh into Gujarat, and the
incentive package that oiled the path of migration in this phase would leave a strong impression
on the minds of prospective migrants that Gujarat was a virtual El Dorado leading to mass
migrations to that state in the late-1990s.

  Tindal. [From Malayalam tandel.] A petty officer among lascars, or native East Indian sailors; a boatswain's mate;
a coxswain

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The final phase (1995-continuing)

Then began the more recent phase: that of decline of Gujarat fisheries. All available accounts
agree with the fishers‟ contention that fishing in Gujarat started decelerating from mid-1990s.
Catches declined in spite of increased effort, and in order to overcome the shortfalls, longer
fishing trips – going from one or two days up to eight days or longer – became necessary adding
to costs enormously. High value species like pomfrets and shrimp became less abundant than in
the past and showed fluctuations in seasonality of abundance. Reduction in the cod-end mesh
sizes from 20-25 mm to 8-12 mm has been reported in the 1990s. The average sizes declined and
juveniles increasingly constituted the catches. Puthra Pravin et. al (1998) found that juveniles of
many commercial varieties of fish, along with low value fish, constituted more than half (52.2%)
of the total catch by trawlers off Veraval coast in Gujarat. A declining trend in the catch rates of
most varieties was observed, which was attributed to the increase in fishing trawlers in the region.
Several species were known to have completely disappeared from the area throughout the period.
Since 2001, several boats were reported to have been operating only for four to five months in a
season and one-fifth of the fleet had not operated at all because fishing or investment on repairs
and maintenance of the boats was no longer viable.

It was realised that while the operations with large fishing crafts were increasingly unviable, the
smaller boats operating trawl nets and bag nets managed to survive because of the increasing
value of bycatch. An important adaptation made by the owners was thus to go for smaller boats
and lesser engine capacity, longer voyage times and lower wages meant a reduction in
investment and working capital requirements, while the demand from international markets for
cheaper varieties such as ribbonfish and anchovies (particularly from China and Southeast Asian
countries) was a new opportunity to catch the hitherto under-exploited fish. One of the measures
the owners also adapted was to bring in cheap labour to run the fishing operations in place of the
local fishers 17 . The Srikakulam migrants‟ capacity to accept work at almost any terms and
willingness to work under any conditions (they would not form a union knowing the boat owners
disliked it; they would work for low wages because they knew it was their unique selling point;
they would willingly work under conditions that would incite a buffalo to revolt) became an
asset and they were recruited in large numbers.

The fresh influx of the beleaguered migrant labour from Andhra Pradesh in the 1990s and early
21st Century fulfilled this need for a cheaper and hardworking workforce. The Andhra fishers are
today to be seen operating the smaller and older boats and receive lower salaries than their
Gujarat counterparts, while staying longer out at sea and working harder. Still, as Nayak and
Vijayan note, „life is more gainful here than back home‟. Thus, the overall situation indicates that
the new activities into which the migrants moved are not much different or more sustainable than
the conditions they had left behind.

  It is also possible that the local fishers themselves found better avenues than fishing – migrating to the Arab Gulf
countries, for instance – hence did not particularly mind the influx of labour from other states to take their places.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Cast of characters involved in migration

This section will introduce the characters (other than the fishers themselves, whose conditions
have been discussed in the previous chapters) involved in the migration stream – boat owners,
Tindals, Side-Tindals and cooks.

Boat owners (Saits)

When the state government began to promote mechanisation in the state, the local fishing caste –
Kharwas – received preferential treatment in accessing new boats and other support. As the
activity proved lucrative, the more affluent Kharwas acquired five to ten trawlers each while a
large number of poorer Kharwas settled for one boat each. A number of salaried Kharwas also
ventured subsequently into trawling acquiring one or more boats by making use of the
government support or, in many cases, their own resources.

In all cases, as the Kharwas were not proficient in marine fishing themselves (they had mainly
been fishing in the estuaries using canoes or operating sailing vessels called „vahans‟ for
carrying grain, chilli, ground nut and cement etc along the west coast of India or to the Middle
East), they chose to become shore-based managers of the fishing operations and engaged the
crew from other areas – including Andhra Pradesh – to run the actual operations on a salaried
basis. This payment of monthly salaries is an important departure from the traditional practice of
sharing widely prevalent in subsistence-based fishing and sets the tone for the Gujarat fishing
activities as commercial ventures right from the beginning.

Besides the Kharwa, other castes like Moila and Yadava (called Motabhais) also came to own
boats. Many boat owners also hail from Muslim community. The Motabhais take part in fishing
competing with the Andhra fishers and apparently receiving a better deal – working on bigger
and better boats as well as receiving higher wages. It is reported that the Saits are reluctant to
employ the local fishers because of poor skills and demands for higher salaries. The fishers of
Srikakulam have developed a niche for themselves as master-fishermen, daring to go where the
others would not and also willing to work for low wages and for continuous periods.


Onboard a trawler, the manpower would normally consist of the Tindal, an assistant Tindal
(called Side-Tindal) and six crewmembers (called as Khalasis; one of whom will act as a cook).
Of these, the Tindal is the most important member not only at the sea but also on shore. Once a
Tindal is recruited by the Sait, he effectively takes over the whole operation including the
recruitment of the crew. It is also the Tindal who pays the crews‟ monthly salaries and acts as a
go-between for the crew and the Saits. The Sait has no contacts with the crew and even speaks to
them only through the Tindal. Obviously, a Tindal would need to be considered as very
trustworthy by the Sait before he is even considered for such an important job.

Tindals from Srikakulam are of two kinds: (i) those who have undergone training at the CIFNET
or the SIFT in Kakinada and are qualified as skippers and (ii) those who have risen from the
ranks, for e.g., from a crewmember or a cook to the position of Tindal. In both cases, long period

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

of apprenticeship is necessary before one can become a Tindal. During the 1990s the number of
qualified Tindals moving to Gujarat increased rapidly and currently some 400 Tindals from
Srikakulam are reported to be working in Gujarat fishing fleet. Most Tindals hail from Gara
(180), Srikakulam (150), Etcherla (41), V. Kothuru (20), Ranastalam (5) and Polaki (4).

Onboard, the Tindal is in charge of fishing operations and decides all aspects from setting the
time of departure for fishing to the selection of fishing grounds and duration of fishing. He also
is accountable to the Sait for the maintenance of boat and engine. He makes arrangements for
food and accommodation for the crew onboard, entrusts a work schedule to them, recovers and
repays the advance paid by the Sait to the crew and generally takes care of his crew‟s wellbeing.
In other words, he is their guide, leader, adviser, instructor and, frequently, guardian. The role
played by the Tindals as a point of reference to the crew cannot be exaggerated and is only
comparable to that played by resident migrant communities in the previous phases of migration.
Naturally, the Tindals also have a better economic profile in general and their quality of life – in
terms of accommodation, owning assets and consumables etc – are certainly better than the other
classes of migrants in the villages.

Side Tindals

Side-Tindals assist the Tindals at the helm as well as in fishing. For some interesting reasons,
many Side-Tindals come from the same areas as the Tindals. In many cases, the migrant Andhra
fishers are seen to act as Side-Tindals under Gujarati Tindals, who come from an agricultural
background and consider having an Andhra Side-Tindal to be of mutual benefit. While the
Gujarati Tindals depend upon – and possibly learn from – the Side Tindals to operate in the
deeper waters, the Side Tindals learn about the new coast, its features and peculiarities (as well
as the local language, which is a prerequisite for a Side-Tindal to graduate into a Tindal) from the
Tindals. In such cases, it is also the Side-Tindal who helps the Sait in finding and recruiting the
crewmembers from his native area for fishing operations. An experience of two or three years as
Side-Tindal is generally sufficient for a fisherman to be promoted as a Tindal.


Each boat has its own cook who is recruited along with the crew at the beginning of the season
by the Tindal. Usually new entrants into the activity – youngsters of 15-18 years of age – are
employed as cooks onboard. With one or two years of experience as a cook, the boy becomes a
Khalasi himself, so being a cook is like a period of apprenticeship for him. A Tindal who has
come up from the position of a cook via intermediate stations such as Khalasi and Side-Tindal is
considered to be the best to be employed onboard because of the experience he would have
gained along the way.

The Migration Cycle

A detailed look at the various stages of the migration cycle will show how tenuous the migrant‟s
control over his life and livelihood are. There do exist some systems of support, which have
evolved over time taking advantage of the meagre opportunities that are available to the migrants,
but as the following sections will show, they are extremely fragile for the reason that they have

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

no institutional backbone or a legal framework to support them. Their continued survival
depends largely on individual relations rather than firmly grounded systems of support. Naturally,
the migrant-fishers can take very little for certain. The following sections will also indicate that it
takes relatively little effort to make the existing (formal) systems of support to be more
responsive to the needs of the migrant-fishers in a more sustainable and secure manner.

Season of migration

In the northern parts of the west coast of India, which includes the three states of Gujarat,
Maharasthra and Goa, the active fishing season extends from September to May and it is during
this period that the migrant labourers flock to these states for fishing. Two peak fishing periods
are generally visible during these nine months – in October and again in April. The three months
from June to August when the southwest monsoon is active, fishing is suspended and the migrant
fishers return to their native places during this period. Effectively, these three months are the
only period when they can rest and recuperate because during their period of stay in Gujarat,
they practically live onboard the fishing boats, venturing to the shore only occasionally and for a
brief duration.


It is the responsibility of the Tindal to find and recruit the manpower for fishing and so, before
the start of a new fishing season (generally in late-July or early August), the Tindals make a trip
to Gujarat to contact their Saits and collect some money as advance to recruit the crew. The
Tindal is accountable for the money and must ensure to repay it soon after the fishing season
begins. Generally the advances range between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 100,000 depending on the
Tindal and the strength of his relationship with the Sait. The Tindal retains 50 percent of this sum
as his share of the advance, and uses the rest to recruit his crew.

The Tindal then returns to his native place to scout for prospective crewmembers and uses the
money obtained from the Sait to pay an advance to the new recruits to seal the contract.
Generally, the Side-Tindal‟s advance works out to 12.5 percent of the money provided by the
Sait, while the remaining 37.5 percent (after the Tindal‟s own share is deducted) is divided
equally to be shared by the new crewmembers including the cook. Thus, a crewmember‟s share
would work out to about Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 6,000, depending on the size of advance. Frequently
the same people are recruited year after year. Because the Tindal is from the same area as the
crew, mutual trust helps not only in enticing people to Gujarat but also to run the operations
without a hitch.

The advance received from Tindals is crucial for the crew‟s families, which use the money not
only for obtaining provisions but also to pay off the past debts and acquire new assets. Also, the
crewmember starts earning his salary only after he manages to pay off the debt to the Sait –
through the Tindal – hence the advance will have to help his family survive until he begins to
send money from his earnings.

The advances as well as the expenses paid for travel, incidentals and miscellaneous needs are all
recovered from the salary of the crewmembers in the first few months. Some Tindals are not

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

above using more than their share of the advance for their purposes, and since the Sait has to be
repaid the amount before he begins to pay any of them a regular salary, it might fall to the lot of
the crew to reimburse the shortfall from their earnings. On the other hand, some Saits could be
persuaded to extend an advance in the middle of a fishing season as well depending on the
contingency and their mood at the time.

Once the deal is struck and the advance paid, the fishers are practically bonded to the boat for the
season. The Tindals occasionally fire a crewmember when his performance is found
unsatisfactory. The crewmembers, on the other hand, have no such privilege – i.e., the option to
abandon the boat to join another midway through the contract period for any reason except with
the permission of the Tindal.


Once an agreement for work is entered into and an advance paid, the Tindal keeps a hawk‟s eye
on his new recruits and the whole team starts working as one group from that moment on. They
begin their journey together in the second half of August and stay close for the next nine months
through thick and thin. The Tindal uses the advance from the Sait to buy tickets for himself as
well as his newly recruited crew and to pay for expenses during the travel. Generally, a group
will consist of the new crew for two or three boats owned by the same Sait. Some fishers travel
by Sleeper Class, but most prefer non-reserved class which does not involve the complicated
exercise of form-filling to book a seat or finding one‟s seat in the train when it arrives on the
platform, and is moreover cheaper.

The Puri-Okha Express – a weekly train – is the only train that takes the fishers from Srikakulam
direct to their destination and is immensely popular with the migrants. The Konark Express from
Bhubaneswar, which takes them up to Mumbai, is the alternative option. From Mumbai, the
fishers take another train to Gujarat. Throughout the period of journey, the Tindals act as the
voice of the whole group not only because they hold the purse-strings, but also because they are
generally the only ones who have acquired a smattering of Hindi or Gujarati and who could thus
arrange food and tea at regular intervals. For the new recruits among the crew, it is perhaps the
first time in their life that they ever boarded a train, let alone travelled such long distances,
although by the next trip, they would already start talking like „experts‟.

‘Freelance’ migrants

Apart from these Tindal-inspired and –sponsored migrations, which account for a sizeable
number of people entering the Gujarat fisheries, there exists another – and more pathetic –
system by which people from Srikakulam make an entry into Gujarat.

These are the people who „missed the bus‟ – i.e., no Tindal approached them (or at least their
village) to recruit them for whatever reasons – and yet they felt the need strongly enough to
brave everything and pay their way to Gujarat with their own resources (which are often
borrowed). The individual goes to Gujarat and desperately searches for work on a trawler. He
spends considerable time contacting the Tindals and the Saits for work. When he succeeds, of
course, he gets accommodated onboard, but he will settle more frequently for work as a

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

temporary labourer – i.e., filling in for a regular worker who has fallen sick or otherwise unable
to go fishing. During the period of looking for work, the helpless migrant practically lives on the
streets, barely eats enough to survive the day, gets harassed or chased away by the local people
and frequently loses whatever money he has on him. If he falls sick, he is his own doctor – even
the fishers from his own village might not be in a position to help him as they spend all their time
on the boat.

When, after wandering in search of work for a few months and failing, the poor migrant returns
home, he finds that conditions at home have become even worse than when he had left and the
only thing he can show for the absence for months is a fresh debt. It takes many years to clear the
debt – if he ever does. From Kothamukkam village, five people went to Gujarat in 2001 and
spent considerable time searching for work. They came back three months later, completely
broke economically as well as psychologically. They had taken personal loans for going to
Veraval, which were not cleared at the time this study team met them in early 2003.

And yet, every year, year after year, the story repeats with practically the same stories and the
same results in the end. Only a little imagination is enough to see the intensity of poverty that
makes people to take such desperate measures where the only certainty is that they are more
likely to fail than succeed.

Places where migrated

The migrants from Andhra Pradesh work on trawlers operating from Veraval, Mangrol,
Porbander and Okha, with a large majority – 75 percent – based at Veraval, considered to be the
main citadel of migrants from everywhere.

Registration of boats

The boats are subjected to a survey conducted by the Port Department of Gujarat and are
registered under the Port rules. The registration is renewed every year. The Port authorities are
particular about the condition of the boat and engine and the provision of navigation lights
onboard, but they do not verify the fire-fighting equipment (FFE) and life saving appliances
(LSA). It is not known whether the certificate of registration is issued in the name of the owner
or also includes the names of Tindal and the crew onboard. Although noting the names of the
crew onboard is generally mandatory, it may be difficult in this instance because of the nature of
their appointment, which is at best a temporary arrangement, involving people of a different (and
distant) state.

Fishing from Veraval

A group of eight to ten trawlers – generally belonging to the same Sait – go for fishing together
for fishing trips of seven to eight days. Each such group is called a „Sanghatita‟ (meaning,
„organised‟) group as all boats fish together and also keep an eye on one another as a measure of
protection. When one of the boats feels the need for assistance of any kind – due to engine
breakdown or other emergencies – the other boats extend all assistance at the sea and in bringing
it back to the shore.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The Tindal, Side-Tindal and one or two of the senior Khalasis take turns at the helm, steering for
three hours each. The Tindal is in charge of the 1st turn of duty in order to steer the boat out of
the harbour, select and locate the fishing grounds and to give work schedules to the crew. Those
in charge of the wheel are exempted from routine work onboard and allowed to take rest
whenever their turn is over, but they do take part in segregating the catch, salting and storing fish
in ice. Strict discipline is maintained onboard and the Tindal has – and frequently uses – his
dictatorial powers in order to keep the work progressing smoothly. The crew generally do not
have set hours to rest and during good fishing seasons, they seldom get enough time to sleep.
The time taken for cruising to and back from the fishing grounds is the only time available to
them to doze off a little. Landing of fish catches is generally done at the port of origin and never
at any other port.

During the lean fishing months of January and February, the boats travel far and wide covering
vast distances in search of fish. At such times, the boats are anchored at sea during the night time
as the crew rest from a day‟s exertions, while the engines remain idling. The general convention
is that the engines, once started at the beginning of the fishing trip, should not stop till the boat
returns to port after completing the trip.

During bad weather days or when a cyclone is expected, the boat owners‟ association
communicates weather warnings by Tom-Tom at the landing centre and fishing is stopped,
giving a welcome breather to the crew to stretch their legs a bit.

The target species

The trawlers fish in waters up to 100-fathom line, where cuttlefish abound in the catches. Tiger
shrimp are very rare in the catches and do not number more than one or two per haul.
Consequently, they are consumed by the crew themselves onboard. But the other shrimp
varieties are plentiful, and these are iced and brought ashore in good condition for sale.

However, the prime target of fishing is the seer fish which is abundant in these waters and
frequently, tonnes of very large-sized seer fish are caught by the trawlers. Fishing for seer fish is
confined to waters up to 50 fathoms off Veraval, while it reportedly goes up to 80 fathoms off

Identity cards

All fishermen working on fishing boats in Gujarat, Maharastra and Goa are provided with
identity cards issued by the Port Department or the Department of Fisheries. The proximity of
Pakistan and the regular traffic in men and material across the countries in this area makes
anyone without proper identity documents very suspect. The Indian Coast Guard and the Navy
regularly check the boats when the latter are fishing on high seas and it is absolutely necessary
that every crewmember has his card at hand when the checking is taking place.

The Saits arrange to obtain identity cards for the crewmembers and the cards are kept in the
custody of the Tindal onboard. The cards are renewed once every three months. If the migrants
manage to obtain an identity card from the local Department of Fisheries before leaving Andhra

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Pradesh, it reportedly simplifies the process to a large extent, but it has been reported that it is
difficult to get the Department of Fisheries officers in Andhra Pradesh to issue identity cards.

Seizure of boats by Pakistani forces

Every year at least a few Indian boats stray into the Pakistani waters either due to ignorance or in
a bid to catch more fish. Some times, when the engine breaks down and it is foggy, the boats
drift into Pakistani waters. It is not uncommon for cyclones or bad weather also to push the boats
into these waters. Some over-enthusiastic Tindals – reportedly those hailing from Gujarat itself –
also intentionally cross the borders to poach in the relatively virgin fishing grounds on the „other
side‟. Whatever the reasons, on average about two to six Andhra Pradesh migrants are annually
caught by the Pakistan Navy for straying into that country‟s waters (and the reverse also holds
true: many Pakistani fishers straying into Indian waters are caught and put behind bars for
indefinite periods).

When they seize a boat, the Pakistani forces confiscate the boat and arrest all the people onboard.
The other boats in the Sanghatita group carry the information back to the shore immediately, but
apart from letting the local authorities know about the seizure, the Saits or their association do
not take an active role in securing the release of the fishers, perhaps because they know from
experience that it was futile. Once the relevant authorities and, perhaps, the families of the
fishers who had been caught were informed, the issue is simply allowed to fade away.

Although it is a regular occurrence between the two countries, the governments have so far taken
no institutional measures (i) to provide the tools to the fishers to ensure that they do not stray, (ii)
to protect them from crossing the borders unknowingly, or (iii) to take prompt measures for their
release when the fishers are caught. According to The Hindu (14 March 2003), the total number
of Indian fishers in Pakistani jails was 188. There are several instances of fishers from
Srikakulam district being taken prisoners by the Pakistan Navy. The fishers spend considerable
time in the jails awaiting diplomatic formalities to be completed before their release could be
secured. It might take months or even years before the Governments of India and Pakistan strike
a bargain and agree to release the prisoners or the Government of Pakistan simply gets upset with
the expenditure on feeding the fishers and releases them on its own.

Ganagalla Krishna of Peda Ganagallapeta and another fisherman from Kunduvanipeta were
arrested in 2001 by the Pakistani Navy and it was only in February 2003 that they were released.
During the period of incarceration, the two fishers had suffered very badly and lacked food and
other basic comforts. More poignant than the physical discomfort, to which they are in many
senses already much used to, it is the fact that their continued survival and existence in a
Pakistani jail was not even known to their family members, who practically gave them up for
dead. This meant that the prisoners practically became invisible to everyone – both in Gujarat
and in Andhra Pradesh – and so did the efforts to secure an early release: this non-belonging is
another facet of the „Migrant Condition‟.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Duties on shore

In the brief time that the boat spends at the harbour, the crew have myriad responsibilities.
Generally, the boats time their arrival at the landing jetty between 9 and 10 AM in order to sell
their catches during the peak market hours. Unloading the catches takes about four to five hours.
Immediately after the catches are taken out, the boat is washed completely, which takes an hour.
The Tindal makes preparations for loading oil, water, ice and provisions for the next voyage,
while supervising the boat, engine, nets, floats and sinkers etc. for maintenance and minor repairs.
Nets are made by specialist net-makers of the Kharwa community, who are also employed to
mend major damages to the nets. But minor damages are to be mended by the crew in their spare
time either onboard or on the shore. Each boat generally has 10-12 sets of nets, so that even if a
net is damaged badly and needed to be left with the Kharwas for repairs, it would not affect the
next fishing trip.

It is only after this is satisfactorily completed that the Khalasis get to set foot on land and move
about. They spend the time meeting friends and relations from their native places and generally
relaxing over a drink or sneaking into a cinema close by. They return to the boat around 10 PM,
take dinner, hoist anchor and start around midnight on their next fishing trip.


An important incentive for the fishers while in Gujarat is that the Sait bears all food expenses. As
the boat prepares for a voyage, the Sait provides money for stocking all necessary provisions –
and some surplus – in the boat. Most fishers agree that the Saits are generous to a fault in this
respect: there is virtually no restriction on the quantity, quality or variety of food consumed
onboard. The crew generally get breakfast, lunch and dinner, with tea and refreshments
throughout the day and they have the choice to set the menu for the day. Usually, rice is the
staple for lunch and rotis are taken at nights. This is in stark contrast to the conditions prevailing
in their village where even two meals a day are not always to be taken for granted.


There is no separate accommodation for the Tindal and his crew on shore as they are allowed
very little time on shore. They live onboard and are more or less fully engaged in fishing
throughout the period of their stay in Gujarat. It is only in cases of serious illness necessitating
the Khalasi to be brought ashore for rest and recuperation that the Sait arranges a makeshift
accommodation in his work-shed located in the fishing harbour.

Generally, freshwater is not available for bathing and washing purposes and they prefer to bath
and wash at infrequent intervals, and make do with the sea water whenever necessary.


The Tindal earns between Rs 10 000 to 14 000 depending on his experience and his relationship
with the Sait. There is a provision for annual increase in the wages paid to the Tindal. The Side-
Tindal earns between Rs. 4 000 and 6 000, with no provision for an annual raise in salary. The

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Khalasis and the cook get a monthly wage of Rs 2 200 per month, with no provision for annual
increase. Compared to mid-1990s, the average salaries have shown a climb down in all cases, but
particularly so in case of the Khalasis, for whom the decline in wages meant a move down from
surplus category to subsistence category. When the money for the Khalasi‟s expenditure is taken
out and the rest of his earnings are sent to his village, it would barely allow his family to survive
for the month – frequently it does not. It would need considerable powers of casuistry to believe
that a monthly salary of Rs 2 200 is a sufficient enough incentive for the fishers to leave for
distant and alien shores, work night and day through whole months (with no holidays) and live a
wretched life in abject conditions. It is true that a Tindal earns considerably more, but the
number of Khalasis exceeds that of the Tindals by a factor of 6. Thus, the biggest attraction for
the Srikakulam fisher in going to Gujarat as a Khalasi is not so much in earning large sums of
money as in receiving a fixed monthly wage, giving lie to the widely held assumption that the
fishers migrate because it is a lucrative proposition.

The salaries are generally paid at the end of the month, once the advance taken by the Khalasis at
the start of the term is fully deducted. Some Saits pay the crew‟s wages regularly, either monthly
or bimonthly. Some Saits are also known to pay the sum due for the entire term of contract in
two or three instalments, while some others make a one-time bulk payment at the end of the
contract period.

Irregularities in payment of wages

Naturally, there is much scope for harassment or evasion. Thus, from Kothamukkam village,
some 80 persons went to Veraval during 2001-2. Of these, five people had to return within three
months due to illness. These did not get any salary even for the period of their work because a
part of it was deducted to recover the advance and the rest was withheld for leaving before time.
Of the Khalasis who did remain throughout the season in Veraval, 55 fishers reported to have
received their salaries fully before returning to the village. The rest – 20 people – received their
wages only partially because of various reasons. Similarly, of the 70 fishers who went to Gujarat
from Pukkallapeta in the same year, fifty are reported to have received their full wages while
another fifteen were only partially paid and the rest did not get any salary because they had to
return in the middle of the season.

The most usual excuse for irregular payments – an excuse that reportedly is increasing over time
– is that fishing and the earnings have not been very good and that the Sait has incurred a loss, so
is unable to pay the salaries fully. There is always the promise of a better season next year and
the Khalasi is asked to carry over the loan until then.

The other sources of losses include frequent breakdown of the engine, involving huge investment
in repairs and dead time at the fishing harbour. Even when the fishing was good and the engine
behaved itself, the Sait could plead that the overall expenditure on the activity was
disproportionately higher than the returns, making him lose. A fishing season which starts on a
bright note might turn out to be a damp squib, which is worse than a uniformly bad season
because the hopes are higher, and the Saits‟ plaintive excuses for evading payment stronger.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The Tindals could turn out to be a big excuse too: because the amount they take as advance is big,
it needs a longer period of repayment and during this period. The Saits are not aware – and not
concerned either – about the amount of advances taken by the individual crewmembers, and
deduct whatever is due to be recovered beforehand and pay the rest to the Tindal to be paid out
as monthly wages to the crew. The crewmember ends up being paid less than his due, but he
cannot complain because the Tindal is too powerful in the hierarchy and also as a potential
source of work in future.

There are also instances when the Saits brazenly pay a lesser sum than is actually owed and told
the Khalasi to take it or leave it. Competition for work in Gujarat fisheries – even from
„freelance‟ fishers from Srikakulam district itself – is mounting and the Saits know they can
always find another crewmember. This competition has also led to a general reduction in salaries
all round and the fishers have to go along with it uncomplainingly or be forced to lose out

Theoretically, the Khalasi is free to choose whoever he wants to work with at the start of the
fishing year, which is considered by some writers to make migration a voluntary act aimed at
improving one‟s opportunities in life. But this is often a choice between the devil and the deep
sea, comprising as it does the option of working for a pittance on the one hand and preferring to
starve on the other. With increasing competition, even this option is largely redundant – if there
is a choice in the transaction, it rests with the boat owners.

There is also an interesting option available to the Saits: when they do not pay for two or three
months continuously, the fisher gets frustrated and leaves for Srikakulam, as happens fairly
frequently. And when a fisher leaves for home midway through the contract, he is not entitled to
be paid anyway!

Safekeeping of money and remittances to family

The strange circumstances that the „Migrant Condition‟ imposes on a fisher are nowhere more
poignantly illustrated than when it comes to keeping their money safe and sending it to their
family in the village. Because the migrants have no fixed accommodation on the shore and do
not like to carry the money onboard (for fear it might get soaked in water), safekeeping is a
major problem. The fishers do not – cannot – have an account in the local banks and in any case,
banking is something of an unknown quantity even back in their villages. Some fishers prefer to
keep the money with the Saits themselves, even taking their help in sending money home, but
this is a tricky proposition as the Saits are likely to use some pretext to deduct some money or
totally evade paying it on one pretext or another.

For most fishers, it is their local friends – the friendly grocery merchant or the cigarette kiosk
operator – who act as the custodians of their money. These friendly souls not only keep the
money in trust, but also take the responsibility – on the request of the fishers themselves – of
sending a part of it regularly to the fishers‟ families back in the village by postal money order or
– less frequently – as a demand draft. They may pocket some amount for the service (albeit
surreptitiously) but as far as could be ascertained during this field study, no fisherman appears to
have ever been cheated by his local friends in this respect.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The fishermen also use the services of their fellow-villagers who are going home for any reason
during the fishing season to carry money to their families. In general, they are aware of the risks
in carrying large sums of money on one‟s person during travel and take ample precautions to
protect it.

Contacts and correspondence with families during the period of migration

A large percentage of the fishers are illiterate and writing letters home is practically out of the
question. In most fishing villages in Srikakulam, the number of phones can be counted in single
digits and are owned by the more affluent people who would not normally allow the migrants‟
families to receive phone calls except in emergencies, ruling out the option of telephoning at
regular intervals. When the fishers operate from ports like Porbandar or Okha, it is nearly
impossible for the fishers to call home anyway because the landing centres are located far away
from the town.

However, most Tindals have installed phones in their houses which are necessary for
professional reasons. The Tindals call their families every fortnight and give them news of the
wellbeing of the crewmembers and the Tindal‟s family in turn takes the news to the families of
the fishers. This is about the only channel of communication between the fishers and their
families for the duration of their stay in Gujarat.

Besides this, whenever the fishers find a fellow-villager going back to the village (when he falls
sick or receives news of illness or death in his family or needs to attend a wedding in the family
etc) they send news of their wellbeing to the family members. Some Tindals also take advantage
of a lull in fishing activities during the lean seasons to make a trip home (leaving the Side-Tindal
in charge of the work routine), and this is an opportunity for the fishers to convey news and
money to their families.

Medical and health care

The ailments frequently reported by the migrants include fever, coughs, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Jaundice is also prevalent and most fishers also complain of frequent back pains. The causes of
most problems are noted as: hard and unrelenting work routine; restlessness brought on by poor
living and work conditions; change in climatic conditions; consumption of poor quality or too-
spicy food; or simple homesickness. The crew take their own medication for minor ailments and
are taken to the government hospital for prolonged or serious ailments.

The terms are unclear about the Sait‟s responsibility vis-à-vis provision of healthcare to the crew.
Some Saits reportedly take good care of their Khalasis in case of illnesses contracted while
onboard and even insist on the boat returning to the shore whenever a Khalasi fell seriously sick.
Some boats are provided with first-aid kits onboard, which are stocked with medicines for
emergencies and minor illnesses. The Saits also ensure that medical care is provided to the ailing
crewman and bear all the expenditure for the treatment from their pocket.

However, as the fishermen insist, it is entirely up to the individual Saits to do all this – or not. It
is the Sait‟s innate humane nature or self-interest and the Khalasi‟s personal relations with the

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Sait that determine how the Khalasi gets treated in case of illness. If the Sait chooses to act
differently, there is nothing to hold them to account. Thus, for instance, there are instances when
the Saits took strong exception when the Tindal decided to bring the boat back to the shore
midway through a fishing trip in order to provide emergency medical help to an ailing
crewmember. This even led to the entire crew being penalised by deducting their wages for loss
of fishing days. There are reportedly incidents when the crew – out of sheer fatigue (as they
claim) or out of mischief (as the Saits took it) – returned to the shore midway through a trip on
flimsy pretexts of illness, which apparently led to a hardening of stance among the Saits who
refuse to countenance such excuses for returning to the shore.

In many cases, the medical expenses incurred by the Sait for the treatment of a crewmember are
deducted from his salary. During sick period, persons are not entitled to receive wages. In very
few cases, the Saits do pay wages on humanitarian grounds, but once again, there is no hard-and-
fast rule to force them to do so.

In most cases, the liability of the Saits towards the illness of the crew on their boats is restricted
to a maximum of Rs 1 000, and any excess over this is deducted from the Khalasi‟s salary. If the
ailment is serious, the migrants are sent back to their villages accompanied by a fellow-Khalasi
to help during the travel. The expenses for the journey are generally met by the Saits, for whom
it is much cheaper – and less risky – to send the Khalasi home than pay for his treatment in
Gujarat itself. Before departure, the Saits also pay the money due to the migrant for his work up
to that date. If the fisher gets well, he might manage to get back to his position onboard but this
depends on his personal equation with the Sait. Generally, most people cannot resume their work
after returning from their village because the Tindal will have taken another person onboard in
their place.


Insurance is a concept that is as alien to the fishermen in Gujarat as it is back in Srikakulam,
although the hazards to their life increase manifold during the migration period. It is compulsory
for the boat owners to insure all boats along with their crew. The crewmembers are largely
unaware whether they are covered under any insurance programme, and if so, for how much.

When a boat is lost and/or crew die, the owners pay a compensation ranging between Rs.50 000
and 100 000 to the families of the deceased crewmembers, depending on their disposition and/or
how effectively the victim‟s family (or their representatives) argue their case. Since the women
or the other family members are mostly illiterate and have no idea of the language or the area to
which their men had gone, their capacity to meet – let alone bargain – with the Saits for a better
deal is extremely low, hence they depend on the interlocutors to deal with the Saits. The Saits
prefer to pay compensation instantaneously knowing that the crewmember‟s family is desperate
and cannot wait until the insurance company settled the claims. This way, the Saits pay far less
than the amount for which the deceased had been insured. Even then, a large part of the
compensation is eaten away by the middlemen and only paltry sums reach the widows.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS


There is no fishing holiday as in Srikakulam area, and the fishers work a 7-day week without a
break. Generally, only the crew of a boat has opportunities to move as a group because they
work and have rest periods together. In cases where the Sait has two or three boats, the two or
three sets of crew move together as one group while on shore. It is only on rare festive occasions
like Holi that all fishers from the same village get to meet and be together. Adverse weather
conditions also are an opportunity for people to skip fishing and meet with friends on other boats.

The most important diversion for the fishers during the very short period they have to themselves
on shore leave is drinking although they completely avoid drink while at sea. Liquor is consumed
by more than 80 percent of the fishers and a quarter of them are considered to fall into the
„regular drinker‟ category. A few of the regular drinkers – nearly half of them – are considered as
full-fledged drunkards and are viewed with suspicion and distaste by everyone. Many of them
would be thrown out of work if they were not good fishers while at sea. Apart from a customary
liking for drink, loneliness is cited as a reason for imbibing liquor in copious quantities. Drinking
occasionally leads to fights. While the fights among the Andhra Pradesh fishers are sorted out
among themselves, those with the locals could be dangerous often leading to violence. When an
Andhra fisher gets into a fight with a local fisher, even his team mates are known to abandon him
for fear of their lives.

The other diversion for the migrants is visiting the local brothels. Although the fishers suggest
during the interviews that it was confined to a tiny fraction of the migrants and that too, only to
bachelors or people with marital problems back in their village, other accounts indicate that the
practice is more widespread. Prolonged absence from their village, together with the charms of
the local Kharwa women who are reportedly quite adept at deftly relieving the migrants of their
pocket money, is an effective foil against sexual abstinence for extended periods. No information
is available on the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among the migrant fishers (or their
family members) but is an area of concern, particularly in the widespread – if unspoken –
incidence of AIDS in the coastal areas of Srikakulam district.

Obviously, both the „diversions‟ are not only expensive, but also addictive, which is a cause for
concern. Reportedly, at least a few fishers spend all their earnings on drink and have nothing left
to send to their families. Some fishers even run into sizeable debts by the time they return home,
thus defeating – or inverting – the whole purpose of migration.

The relations between the Saits and the crew

There are instances when the relations of the crew with the Saits are cordial and friendly, and
lead to some of them being treated as members of the Sait‟s own family, even to the extent of
partaking from the family dinner frequently. The Saits are also known to go out of their way to
meet the expenses of the crew that are not part of the original contract (which is oral anyway),
pay some additional money once in a while, and treat the fishers‟ advice and suggestions with
respect. Some migrants from Andhra Pradesh who have been visiting Gujarat for a long time are
known to have built up enduring relationships with their Saits, which means a lot in terms of
livelihood security in the long term. The Tindals being the most important link in the activity,

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

good Tindals are pampered by the Saits, who gift them expensive items like gold chains,
suitcases, colour TVs etc. When the fishing season has been good, the crew also receive
incentives in the form of cash and free return tickets to their village.

On the other hand, as fishing is a strictly commercial enterprise for the Saits, it is inevitable that
their interest would be on maximising returns (preferably in the short term) and to extract as
much as they could for their investment on the workforce. For the crewmembers, besides the
sheer fatigue of working and living on the boat through the entire period of their stay in Gujarat,
the very fact of a fixed monthly salary – which drew them to Gujarat in the first place – acts as a
disincentive to work harder. This conflict of interests often leads to mutual recriminations and
charges of exploitation. Some owners take things into their hands, determining the nitty-gritty of
the operations and resorting to highhandedness when the crew do not respond enthusiastically.
The fishers also report that physical violence is a frequent measure employed by the Saits to keep
the errant crewmembers in line.

Some fishers also suggest that while an element of exploitation of the fishers is very much
evident in the Saits‟ relations with the crew, it may not be very different from that which exists
in Andhra Pradesh itself. Linguistic barriers and feelings of loneliness may exacerbate the
tensions. However, as others suggest, the lack of even the most rudimentary necessities and the
extremely harsh conditions of life of the migrant do show that the fishers do suffer much pain
and abuse for lack of rigorous systems to monitor and control the arbitrary powers of the Saits.

Dispute settlement

The boat owners have an association in the fishing harbour premises and this also acts as a
grievance cell for the crewmembers. Most general complaints against the boat owners relate to:
(i) problems related to payment of salaries; (ii) problems related to fishing conditions and (iii)
highhandedness of the owner in dealing with the crew. The association calls the owner to
account whenever a complaint is lodged and tries to settle the issue amicably through

The return

During May, the fishers begin preparations for their return journey. The boats are tidied and the
nets and other materials stored away safely. The settlements of final accounts with the Saits – or
the Tindals who are the Sait‟s earthly representatives as far as the crew are concerned – take a bit
of time and could frequently be tricky. The Khalasis nowadays buy their own tickets back to
home, but in the past, if the season had been particularly good, it was not uncommon for the
Saits to arrange their return fare in a gesture of appreciation or to ensure the fishers‟ services for
the next year. It is also remembered fondly that there was a time when some of the Saits used to
host a banquet in honour of the departing fishers, give them sweets to carry to their homes and
even see them off at the railway station.

The first thing that most fishers returning after nine months of fishing in Gujarat do is to acquire
assets, mostly consumables like a TV and two-wheelers. There is a perceptible change in their
behaviour and ways of thinking, talking and clothing, a fact that is not intended to be missed by

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

the local fishers. It is said that, when the migrants return to their village, some of them show
exemplary behaviour, avoid liquor and always show “good manners befitting a respectable
person”, as one fisher put it.

Over time, there appears to have been a downward trend in the numbers of fishers who earn
enough in Gujarat even to fully clear the debts their families had incurred while the men had
been away. Still, the few weeks after the return of the migrants brings festive atmosphere to the
village. Hawkers of different wares flock to the village and do brisk business, houses are repaired
or repainted, young children wear new clothes, the village reverberates with the noise of new
motorcycles and the women take hurried walks to the nearest town to be in time for the matinee
show. For everyone, it is the best period of the year.

The fishers’ perception of sustainability of fishing operations in Gujarat

Since 2000, the migrant fishers have had to constantly struggle with two problems. The collapse
of the ribbonfish trade to China and the fluctuations in shrimp prices in international markets
have put a further squeeze on the already fluctuating profitability of operations and earnings of
the fishers. Secondly, the villages they had left behind are teeming with thousands of people like
themselves who were willing to compromise even more than they did to get work and who
formed an unending stream to Gujarat. This increased competition led to a further reduction in
opportunities as well as incomes to the fishers.

In spite of knowing that the fishing industry in Gujarat is heading for difficult times, the fishers
believe that the conditions there have not quite reached a stage that they did back in Srikakulam
area. For one thing, the fishing grounds are spread over a much vaster area because of the wider
continental shelf. Fishing is also not dependent on shrimp alone, although it is an important
target species and the operations are built around a number of good species of fish like seer and
pomfrets. This is in contrast to Andhra Pradesh where the operations have largely been confined
to a very few and expensive varieties and where failure to catch these species means a loss. Some
fishers also note that the catch per effort off Gujarat coast remained more or less constant over
the last decade, although this has been achieved with longer fishing distances and duration.

The overall impression of the fishers is that the Gujarat fisheries will continue to remain
sustainable for at least another decade and that they can continue to look forward to working
there for a while yet. They are more worried about further migrations which can only yield
counter-productive results for everyone.

Other migration streams

Four other migratory streams – the fishing migrations to Maharashtra and to Goa, the
occupational shift to hammock making in Andhra Pradesh and the wood-cutting work in Gujarat
(involving a geographical and occupational shift) – will be discussed briefly in this section as
being the other channels (after Gujarat fishing migrations) that the fishers from Srikakulam have

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Migration to Maharashtra

The fishing operations in Maharashtra in which the Srikakulam fishers participate are more
artisanal than mechanised and the systems and practices – of recruitment of staff, terms and
conditions of work etc – thus differ considerably from those in the Gujarat trawl fisheries. The
migration to Maharashtra begins in September, and is different from its Gujarat counterpart in
that the boat owners do not provide an advance to the fishers for the purpose. A group of five or
six fishers, normally including a Tindal, make the trip to Mumbai on their own and search for
work after reaching there.

The fishing boats are called Odi locally and look much like the plank-built Navas of Andhra
Pradesh. These Odi are 40-feet in length and are fitted with six cylinder engines. The owners of
the Odi boats belong to the Koli caste and are called „Nakhua‟. Unlike in Gujarat, the Nakhuas
deal directly with individual crewmembers and fix the details of their salaries and other
arrangements themselves. The Tindals get a salary of Rs 3 500 while the Khalasis are paid
between Rs 2 500 and 3 500, indicating a downsizing of Tindal‟s status in the Odi fishery
compared to the trawl fisheries of Gujarat. The fishers reside in makeshift tents in the village
during the non-fishing periods.

A group of four or five boats go fishing together. Each boat makes about four hauls in a day and
the boats takes turns on a daily basis so that one of them could act as a carrier for the day –
bringing the catches from all boats together to the shore. If the catches are good, each member of
the crew get a small tip – Rs. 5 or 10 per head. The boat begins the next fishing trip within two
hours of unloading the catch.

The Odi operate a variety of nylon net called „Dol Net‟, which is like the traditional trawl net
(iragavala) of the Andhra coast, with chains in the footropes acting as sinkers and plastic cans
tied to the head rope as floats. Dol nets catch mainly Bombay Duck up to a depth of 20 fathoms.
Five members are required for operating two nets simultaneously and seven members can
operate three nets. In Uttan, the boats operate gillnets, catching pomfrets, shark, seer fish,
snappers etc. The duration of a fishing trip ranges from two to three days and fishing is carried
out in depths of about 25 fathoms. The crew are provided with food free of cost while working
on the boat.

Some of the migrants also work in mending of nets and in fish curing. Bombay Duck has a
market only in dried condition and this provides opportunities for a few fishers to find work in
curing and drying operations. At places like Madu, the fishermen from Ratnagiri, an important
fishing town in Maharashtra, compete with the Telugu fishers for work, and because they are the
local community and belong to the fishing caste (Koli) themselves, they are privileged over the

Generally, payment is made in one lump sum at the end of the contract period and no advance is
paid either at the beginning or during the course of the fishing season for any purpose. Obviously
this varies from place to place within the state: in Uttan, the terms of payment vary and are made
on a monthly or bimonthly basis and it is reported that the owners also pay an advance in the
course of the fishing season. The biggest threat with receiving full wages in the end is that the

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

owners generally find one excuse or the other to deduct a portion of the amount due to the fishers.
If the fish catches are poor, or even if there is a slump in the fish catches only towards the end of
the season, there will be an invariable fall in the final settlement to the crew.

The boat owners provide the crew with identity cards which are necessary when the Customs,
Navy or Coast Guard conduct checks at high seas. If a fisher is found to lack proof of identity, he
is taken into custody and is released only after paying a sizeable sum. The owners pay the fine
and get the fisherman released, but the amount spent for the purpose is deducted from the salary
of the fisherman in due course.

Perhaps because the system in Maharashtra is even less organised than the one in Gujarat, the
conditions of employment and the responsibility of the boat owners concerning the well being of
their crew are much worse. The owners appear quite unconcerned with the plight of the fishers
when an accident or illness befalls them and seldom extend a helping hand in any case. If a
crewmember falls sick during the fishing season, the owners do not only avoid paying for
medical treatment, but also cut the wages for the days of absence.

The fishermen leave the address of the boat owner with their families in the village for any
urgent communication. There are many complaints that the boat owners seldom pass on any
information communicated by the fishermen‟s families, even if the matter pertains to a death in
the family. This, the fishermen allege, is so that the owners do not lose the services of the
fishermen. Another migrant group from Adoni - an inland town in Rayalaseema area in Andhra
Pradesh – also seasonally work for the Kolis as labourers in fish curing activities and this group
of people help the owners to read the correspondence that the Srikakulam fishers receive from
their village and thus help the owners in deciding what information to pass on to the fishers and
what to retain.

Migration to Goa

Several fishermen from Srikakulam go to Goa seasonally for working in ring-seine and trawl
fisheries there. Some fishers, mostly from Nuvvalarevu and Sunnampadu in Vazrapu Kothuru
mandal, also work exclusively in mending nets.

The boat owner here is called „Sait‟ as in Gujarat and each Sait has an average of two or three
boats, going up to seven in some cases. Until recently, the method of recruiting the crew from
Andhra Pradesh for ring-seine operations used to be very different from that in Gujarat or
Maharashtra fisheries. In this case, it was the Saits who made the trips to Andhra Pradesh to
recruit the crew and discuss the terms of contract in detail prior to the fishers‟ departure to Goa.
Nowadays, the fishers do not wait until the Saits come to their doorstep and flock to Goa
themselves; thereby sparing the Sait the expense and effort of a trip to Andhra Pradesh, while
also depressing the wages into the bargain.

The ring-seine operations begin in the last week of July and continue right until the next June.
The ring-seine involves one big boat and a dinghy (skiff) and about 22-25 fishermen to operate
one net. Fishing is conducted up to a depth of 25 fathoms and the main catches include

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

mackerels, seer, silver-bar fish, pomfrets and tuna. On good fishing days, the boats return to the
shore on the same day, but at other times stay up to two days at sea.

Half the fishermen involved in ring-seines in Goa come from Andhra Pradesh while the other
half come from Karnataka. None of the Andhra Pradesh fishermen is currently employed as a
Master Fisherman or driver in ring-seine operations because they have little acquaintance with
the operation of the net. Usually local Konkani fishermen are employed as Master Fishermen
and/or Drivers.

For the ten months of work, the money paid to the fishers ranges between Rs 25 000 and 27 000,
i.e., about Rs 2 500-2 700 per month. The payment is made in one lump sum at the end of the
contract period and no payment is made if a fisher stops working midway, even if he has
completed working five months. An advance of Rs 2-3 000 is paid twice during the contract
period and a monthly „pocket money‟ of Rs 200-300 – to be deducted from the final payment – is
paid out to take care of miscellaneous expenses. For the period of not working due to illness or
any other reason, no wages are paid. All medical expenses are borne by the fishers themselves
and the owners are not bound in any way. The travel expenses to and back from Goa are borne
by the individual fishermen. The expenses incurred by the owner towards food for the crew
during the period of contract are also deducted from the final settlement.

Trawling is conducted during the same period as ring-seine operations, i.e., from July to the
following June. Although the fishers in Srikakulam disdain daily wage labour or payments based
on sharing and indicate this to be one of the reason why they do not like to work on the Andhra
Pradesh or Orissa trawlers, a few of them have also begun in recent times to work as crew
members onboard the trawlers for a daily wage-cum-share basis. The fishermen are paid a daily
wage of Rs. 100-150 for a day‟s fishing and a 10 percent share in the catches. Fishing involves
single-day trips, and the number of fishing days in a month works out to about 20. The higher
daily wage compared to Andhra Pradesh and Orissa trawlers could be one reason for this shift.
Some of them also report that although they would have liked to work in Andhra Pradesh-based
trawlers, the opportunities for work are nearly non-existent there.

Manufacture and sale of hammocks

Many fishing households in the villages of Ranasthalam mandal have shifted their primary
occupation to manufacturing cradles and hammocks. Net-making is an age old practice among
the fishing communities although it has increasingly fallen into disuse after synthetic webbing
entered the markets in the 1970s and 1980s. Making cradles and hammocks is thus a matter of
putting the same skills to a more innovative use.

Although it is not possible to identify who first conceived it, the idea of manufacturing
hammocks arose when the fishers noticed cradles and hammocks made with cotton fibre being
sold in the markets and attracting considerable attention. Commercial manufacture of hammocks
and cradles by the fishers began around 1993 when about ten households started the enterprises.
Although the knots are the same as those for making nets, they changed the material from hard-
laid HDPE to soft-laid HDPE in order to make it more comfortable. One member each from a

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

household took the products for sale to the towns and cities within the state as well as outside. To
their utter surprise, they discovered that the hammocks were a roaring success.

This immediately drew more people into the trade and the activity took off in a big way. Usually,
the women fabricate the cradles and hammocks, helped by the other family members including
children and aged people, while the men take care of marketing by travelling from town to town.
Besides cradles and hammocks, the fishers have also diversified and make bags of different sizes.
The average monthly income to the family is estimated to be around Rs 2 000.

Today, there are as many as 920 men and 1850 women exclusively making a living out of the
hammock trade in Srikakulam district. One village, Kovvada, alone accounts for nearly 1400
people in the trade. Particulars of villages engaged in cradle making are given in Appendix-4.

Organisation of production

Although net-making is a traditional activity among the fishing communities, it was generally
not done as a commercial activity, so the system of organisation of the activity was not suitable
for commercial applications. The fishers realised this when the fishers entered the hammock-
trade, and evolved their production activities based on the model of cotton weaving practiced by
the traditional weaving communities.

In the traditional organisation of weaving, one large trader-cum-manufacturer supplies yarn to a
number of weaving families and pays them a piece-rate for the saris woven by them. Similarly,
in the hammock manufacturing process, the large-scale manufacturers procure yarn – soft-laid
HDPE twine – in bulk quantities (about 30-50 kg) from Vijayawada and distribute it at the rate
of one or two kg to a number of neighbouring families for making cradles and pay them
according to the quantity of yarn used. The going rate is about Rs. 15 per kg of yarn used in
making cradles and bags and one person can use up to two kg in a day. A kg of yarn will yield
about 10-15 cradles of different sizes.

None of the fishers involved in the activity has obtained credit from institutional sources,
although it fits very well under many development programmes. The fishers raise money for the
enterprise with their own resources.


One person in every household, generally the male member, has the responsibility of carrying the
finished goods to markets for sale. Children above 12 years also go for sales. About 15 people
from each village, carrying about 30 kg of finished material each (i.e., about the quantity one
person can carry without much problem), tour various parts of the country as a group. Apart from
covering most of the towns and the districts within Andhra Pradesh, the groups also tour other
states including Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal,
Orissa and Assam.

Within the district and in most parts of the state, their preferred mode of travel is public transport
buses and auto rickshaws. For longer distances, they prefer trucks or trains, frequently using both.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Usually, they travel by general class in the trains and pay freight charges for their cargo to avoid
harassment. The travel expenses are borne by the traders individually.

At the destination town, they generally check into a lodge as a group and this lodge will act as
the warehouse for their goods and also the central location of sale. From here, the group
members disperse in different directions every morning, each carrying a quantity of his goods on
his shoulder, coming back only late in the evening. While the sales are individual affairs, the cost
of board and lodge are shared equally among the members of the group.

Naturally, the period of stay in a town depends on how quickly the traders manage to sell their
wares. Generally, they tend to go back to their village within a month, but this may extend up to
two months in some instances. They prefer to stay in the same town for selling their goods even
if the sales are slack; they cannot shift to another town midway because it will entail additional
expenditure which may or may not be compensated by brisker sales in the new town. As the
duration of their stay lengthens, they prefer to clear their stocks at whatever price in order to
reduce further losses due to their own daily maintenance as well as opportunity costs.

The advantages with the cradle/hammock trade

The advantage with hammock making is that the fishers have found an alternative source of
employment without having to move out of their area or losing their traditional skills. It is also
reported that some of the fishers do switch back to fishing whenever it is found lucrative,
although hammock trade remains their primary livelihood activity. The fishers have also reported
that exposure to new areas and acquiring marketing skills helps them to diversify into other
trades depending on the opportunities available in different places. Because the activity
necessitates more organised ways of saving and spending money than fishing, it has allowed the
fishers to become better planners. Many cradle-makers have their own bank accounts and at least
a few managed to build their own houses with their savings. Many send their children to schools
and there is a perceptible change in their behaviour, habits and dressing over the years.

The problems in travelling outside the state

The fishers complain that language is a big problem while travelling outside the state. This leads
to the local people taking advantage of their helplessness, but more seriously, they frequently
become the objects of suspicion and face harassment from the local police. Most fishers in the
hammock trade reported how the local police exploit them, and sometimes involve them in petty
cases. Often, the owners of the lodges –where the fisher-traders stay – come to their rescue
because they are the only people who have known the hapless traders long enough. There are
instances in Maharashtra, where the fisher-traders are lodged in jails for alleged theft, with no
money or the language to fight their way out. Over time, the fishers note that things have
improved and the harassment has come down. Ill-health is another problem that the migrant
traders frequently have to face. Poor food and living conditions and constant movement on the
streets getting exposed to sunlight and dust contribute to frequent illness.

The use of trucks for transporting men and material across the states, though necessary, quicker
and cheaper than other modes of transport, is fraught with problems related to cheating by the

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

truck drivers and their crew. Many trucks also carry other materials without paying excise duty
and when caught, the fishers are also made to pay a fine for their merchandise.

Sawmill labourers in Gujarat

Places like Gandhidham, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar in Gujarat also have good potential for
employment in wood-cutting activity and it is about seven years ago that the fishers from
Srikakulam discovered this new migration stream. These sawmills reportedly number in the
thousands, each providing work to about 8-10 labourers. Nearly three-quarters of the labourers
in these mills are reported to be from AP and nearly a quarter of these are from Srikakulam
District and predominantly from the fishing community.

The mill owners rent out their mills to agents, who run the mills with contract labour. The fishers
from Andhra Pradesh are considered good as labourers because they are cheap and willing to
work long. The agents generally have contacts with the villages and their names and addresses
are available to the prospective migrants, who go to Gandhidham and approach the agents for
work. Some of the agents themselves hail from Andhra Pradesh, much like the Tindals in the
fishing sector and play a more or less similar role. For instance, here too, the Sait is totally cut
off from his employees, content to allow the agents to handle their affairs.

The Sait‟s main role is as an importer of wood – he imports wood from Malaysia and other
Southeast Asian countries by shiploads and distributes it to a number of mills for cutting
purposes. The agents take up the work on contract basis and employ their labourers to do the job.
It is said that when the work is in progress, it could go on throughout the day – from 8 AM to 10
PM – continuously, in order to save expenses. The wages to the labourers are decided based on
the turnover of the work done by the individuals: a minor worker (15-18 years old) earns about
Rs.2000 and a more experienced worker earns up to Rs 5000 a month. The Maestri – or chief
worker – earns up to Rs.8 to 9 thousand a month. Payment of wages is done weekly/fortnightly
by the agent. No wage is paid for the days of absence, even if the labourer is suffering from a
work-related problem.

Women are excluded from this activity also, but about a tenth of the workers take their families
to Gujarat to prepare food for them, and the workers who are not accompanied by their family
join those who do as paying guests. Temporary sheds are provided by the agent for
accommodation in the sawmill premises, which are not adequate for all the workers and their
families, so are invariable overcrowded. Moreover, the living quarters are characterised by
scarcity of basic necessities such as drinking water. Water is supplied once in three days in
tankers by the agent, but its quality leaves a lot to be desired and people regularly suffer from
diarrhoea, vomiting, throat problems and other water-related diseases. Working with sawdust
continuously exposes them to TB and other lung diseases. The children of these migrant families
have no school to go to; they play in the premises and ingest large quantities of saw-dust, besides
drinking water of very poor quality and living in extremely poor conditions.

Moreover, the area is earthquake prone and the Bhuj earthquake in 2001 forced the migrants
leave the place in droves. Because their living quarters were too basic, fortunately no one was
injured, but their work was badly affected and they lost a whole season‟s employment and wages.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Many also left behind their meagre belongings in their hurry to return and never saw them again.
The severe weather and extremely poor working conditions make most people dislike this work
intensely, but abide with it as they have no other way to make a living.

The labourers have to be thoroughly obedient to the agent at all times; otherwise he will
discharge them from duty immediately. They have to work day and night whenever so instructed
by the agent. They are actively discouraged from making complaints to anyone, least of all to
the government officers. Anyway, no Labour Department officials ever visit them to take note of
their grievances and it is doubtful that the labourers would be able to express their distress in
Gujarati even if they did. There is insurance for accidents in the mill: in case of death of a
labourer, the owner generally pays Rs. 50,000 towards full settlement of all claims, and collects
compensation from the insurance companies (which is reportedly higher than the settlement
made to the victim‟s family). Since the workers are completely ignorant about the whole process
and would not be able to directly deal with the insurance bureaucracy themselves, their families
settle for whatever they receive from the Sait.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS


Being a major shift in the way the fishermen lived and worked all their lives, migration does
have a major impact on their physical and emotional conditions. Spending nine months in what is
virtually a foreign land, exposed to hard living conditions, denied the most basic rights and
braving exceptionally difficult conditions both on the sea and on the shore, the fishers undergo a
rapid metamorphosis which is positive in some respects and negative in others – in all cases, the
impacts are permanent. Some features of „migrant condition‟ have already been discussed in the
previous chapter.

An important aspect of seasonal migration is that its impacts are not confined to those who
migrate. In the absence of the head of the household, the pressure of managing the family falls
on the women. Even if the men do send their earnings home, it is still a burden to run the family
and forces the women to take up new activities to meet the family needs. The adaptations include
taking up locally available opportunities – fish trade, agriculture and construction works, etc –
but increasingly cover a few activities that are not so „legitimate‟.

Besides the actual migrants and their families – who are the „direct stakeholders‟ in the migration
process – there are a large number of „secondary stakeholders‟ – petty fish traders, fish
processors, transporters, repairers, basket weavers, ice and salt makers and sellers – who simply
lose their livelihoods when their primary customers (the fishers) move out of the area for large
parts of the year. With a sizeable proportion of men of a productive age group being away for a
large part of the year, the social security nets weaken and the impact is felt by the aged people
and the poorest families in the villages, who – as many research studies have indicated – rarely
migrate because they cannot afford the cost of migration or are unable to take advantage of the
opportunities that migration provides.

The next sections will discuss the impact of migration at the migrants‟ household level and at the
community level.

Impact of migration at the household level

Pressure on women

Traditionally, women have played an important role in fish trade and processing. As fish catches
began to dwindle and competition with the larger traders deprived them of fish, the women‟s role
in processing and trade declined. The 1980s and early-1990s were the period of „masculinisation‟
of the fisheries-related activities in the villages and the women‟s role was increasingly confined
to the kitchen, while the men took on the responsibility of feeding the home. By 1990s, as the
men move out of the village and spend considerable periods of time away from home (in a year
they spend three times as long away from home as they spend at home), the women found
themselves facing the responsibility of running the household once again.

There are two major differences between the previous and the current contribution of the women
to the family needs: one, in the earlier instance, their earnings were supplementing those of their

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

men, whereas now, they are the prime providers to the family because the men‟s earnings take
time in reaching the family and are not always reliable. The second difference is that while the
women were making use of an opportunity offered by the availability of fish at their doorstep in
the earlier instance, now the opportunity is no longer available to them (apart from the other
factors, the migration of the men itself means a drastic decline in fish catches) and they are
forced to go out in search of work in a multitude of activities to survive.

Before they leave on their annual migration, the fishers going to work in Gujarat fisheries obtain
an advance from the Tindal and use this to buy provisions for the family to subsist until they start
earning their salaries and sending them home. However, the provisions hardly last a month or, at
best, six weeks and it is at least two months, but generally much longer, before the migrant
manages to pay off his dues to the Sait and begins to collect his pay. In several cases, the
payments are seldom regular and the Saits also choose to pay the fishers in one or two
instalments or right at the end of the contract period, which will certainly jeopardise the monthly
remittance to the fishers‟ homes.

The family has to survive in the meantime. For the women who have always been housewives,
the only option is to borrow in cash or kind for her family needs from her neighbours and
relations. The social networks are fortunately still strong in many fishing villages and so do
kinship relations – generations of endogamous marriages have at least this virtue: everyone in a
fishing village can claim to be related to everyone else. This means that in the short term the
family survives relatively easily. But, in a context of general and all-pervading poverty in the
village and the region as a whole, the capacity of the neighbours to continue to show largesse to
the needy family is necessarily very limited and soon the woman finds the need to look for work.

Moneylenders who come from the neighbouring agrarian villages are an important source of
loans, provided the family has at least some assets (own houses, fishing craft and tackle – things
that would attract the moneylender‟s attention) and is also willing to pay a sizeable interest –
ranging between three and five percent per month, frequently more. Irregular payments or
inability to repay would attract harsh measures like confiscating the assets or evicting from the
house. There are also a few affluent households in each village who also lend money, but their
terms are no better, and often worse (because of their proximity in geographical and caste terms
as well as their social standing within the village), than those of the outsider-moneylenders. For a
large number of asset-less fishing labourers‟ families, borrowing is a closed avenue anyway.

Those who have a few family heirlooms – mainly copper and brass vessels given in dowry by the
woman‟s parents when she married – also pawn them, which is a one-way street to temporary
survival. Hardly a fraction of the utensils pawned ever make it back to their parental abode.

Once the woman exhausts all possibilities of obtaining support in cash or kind, she begins to
look around for work. In spite of a vast reduction in the scale of opportunities, fish processing
and trade do provide a few women with work, but this is confined to those who have traditionally
continued to be in the activity. For a newcomer, with hardly any money in her hand to invest in
the fish and no experience of markets, this is again a cul-de-sac. The category of workers called
„processing assistants‟ – i.e., women who helped in the processing operations of the larger
traders – have more or less disappeared in most villages, so even wage labour in processing is no

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

longer possible. Even if bulk landings occurred incidentally and the processors needed assistance,
the most they would pay is the fish guts, which suffice to make the day‟s curry.

The next option available to the woman is as a wage labourer in agriculture in the neighbouring
area. Considering that agriculture in the coastal plains in Srikakulam has always been a difficult
proposition and that the labour-force in agriculture itself has been migrating en masse to other
areas, this is not an option at all. The best that a woman can hope to get is work for about 30 days
in a year, but with competition from her own villagers being what it is, it rarely exceeds a couple
of weeks in a year. She also tries her hand at making coir rope locally. She works as a servant
maid in the neighbouring agrarian villages, if there is work to be had. She helps in husking rice
and pounding it, but is so lacking in skills that it takes her three times as long and as much pain
as it would to a more skilled woman in the same village. She might try her hand at collecting
firewood from the neighbouring casuarina groves, when the owners are not watching. She also
tries her hand at setting up a food-stall, but the tiny hamlet – bereft of most of its earning citizens
at that – does not need more than one such enterprise. She takes a cast net and tries it in the
nearby waterbodies, and sometimes manages to catch enough fish to suffice for the day‟s needs.
She collects toddy-palm fruits and makes some food items.

Any other option would necessitate the woman herself moving out on a daily basis into an urban
area like Srikakulam or Palasa on the doubtful assumption that she might find some work there.
The women from fishing villages close to urban areas do find much work as servant maids and
cleaners. But considering the general lack of skills, exposure to the outside world and
competition in the urban areas, many women frequently find it more profitable to stay at home
and starve, hoping that their men will manage to earn something to send home soon.

Impact on children

But the women have responsibilities that go beyond their own needs. Their children have to be
fed and clothed and sent to school, if only to keep them from asking for food. In several cases,
the kids support their mothers by working on the beaches – mending nets, pulling the shore-
seines (which thankfully do not migrate and their operations actually developed in such a way
that the benefits are spread as widely – if thinly – as possible) and helping in segregating the
catches, carrying them into the village – and a host of other jobs not always approved by the
adults and bring something back home for the day‟s dinner. When there is not that much to bring
home, they exchange it for some sweetmeats or other edible items and thus at least fend for
themselves – one less stomach for their hapless mother to worry about. Obviously, their
education is a major casualty in the process, but no one is complaining.

The widespread belief that education does not help the children in any way was rather pleasantly
shattered when the Government of Andhra Pradesh started its midday meal scheme for school-
going children in early 2003. The attendance at schools improved miraculously because, for most
fisher children, this was their only chance to get a meal for the day.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Impact on old people

While the woman has more than her hands full taking care of her children, she has frequently to
fend for her in-laws. Old age catches up rather early in fishing villages and man of fifty is long
past his prime and energy while his forty five year old wife (a grand-grand mother of thirteen
children) is practically unable to do any work and not just because there isn‟t any. During the
1980s, both her husband and his two grown up sons earned well and the family had no need to
worry about where the next day‟s meal was going to come from. Now, with their three sons gone
away to a distant place and the daughters-in-law indifferent to the point of being callous to their
fate, the old couple does not know how to survive. Poverty and hunger, helplessness and
mounting responsibilities, no doubt frequently coupled with memories of old slights, make it
easier for the woman to ignore the older couple as much as she can. And when she does care for
her in-laws, which indeed happens in many cases, the conditions only become worse. Taking
care of the invalids‟ needs and frequently finding the means to get them some medical assistance
eat into her time to do some work as well as the meagre earnings that she earns.

Impact on healthcare

If a member of the household falls ill, it is ignored by everyone in the family – including the
patient – for as long as they can, and even then, home remedies are the most preferred option.
When this fails, the invalid is taken (often by walk) to the nearest government public health
centre (PHC) and that‟s the farthest the patient and his/her disease can go physically as well as
economically. That the PHCs are not exactly the best equipped medical centres anywhere is
widely accepted, but they are the only source of affordable healthcare in most villages. The
„rumour‟ that the government was thinking of introducing a „user fee‟ for patients visiting the
government hospitals created a big scare in the villages; in any case, most patients agree that the
number of medicines they would get free from the PHCs has come down to a trickle. Nowadays,
the PHC only issues them with „white slips‟ which one is expected to take to the pharmacy in the
nearest town for purchasing the medicines. Most fishers safely tuck away the white slips in the
gaps between the beams and the roof of their houses, in the hope that one day, when their men
come home with their earnings, they might be able to purchase the medicines. The economic
conditions in the fishing villages have deteriorated to an extent where even the itinerant quacks
do not show up as frequently as they used to in the past. Some fishers themselves have become
quacks instead because it was as good a livelihood option as any. Salagrama (2003) provides a
detailed analysis of the quality of life issues in the coastal fishing communities.

Impact on food security

An important incentive for the fishers migrating to Gujarat fisheries is that they get free meals
during the period of contract, and a constant refrain that one hears from the fishers is how the
food they get onboard is so much better than what they eat at home. At home, however, there is
increasing evidence that food insecurity is on the rise in many fishing villages. During the rainy
months – which are routinely dubbed as „Hunger Months‟ by the fishers in many villages – a
large proportion of households make do with one meal or less a day. While this is more serious
in households headed by single-women or aged people unable to move out in search of work, the
study has shown that the families of migrants also suffer no less. Within the households, there

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

exist disparities in food consumption based on gender and age. Even when the families do get to
eat something, the variety, quantity, quality and number of meals taken in a day leaves much to
be desired. Ironically, fish consumption among the fishing households has been dwindling and
even dried fish which was a staple during lean periods has become a rarity in the meals.

Psychological impact

Besides the pressures of day-to-day survival, the women also have to fend with anxiety for their
husbands and their well-being. The men, once they leave the village, are practically cut off from
the family for the duration of their stay in Gujarat, and the only news about their wellbeing
trickles in from the phone calls that the Tindals make to their own houses and from the other
migrants returning home due to ill-health or other reasons. If the Tindal does not come from the
same village as the fisher, or if his family members do not like the fisher‟s wife for any reason,
the information flows are drastically reduced. In such circumstances, as one woman put it, “I
dread to hear any news about him – because any news that is important enough to be passed on
to me cannot be good news!” No news, as the cliché goes, is good news.

When news about the Bhuj earthquake and the cyclones that preceded it came into the villages,
many families waited anxiously for word about their loved ones for days together – foregoing
food, walking around the village like zombies, asking one another if they had any news, waiting
for the radio to tell something about their men, making the trips to the Department of Fisheries
offices in Srikakulam for any information they might have – and discovering that there was no
earthly way to know the wellbeing of their men unless the latter could somehow get home to tell
them all about it; which they did, after more than a week.

That there are cyclones periodically hitting the coast of Srikakulam is also a cause for concern.
The fear of losing lives is not a major issue anymore because the government has been active in
prevention measures like evacuation, every village has cyclone shelters and many pucca houses
that can withstand cyclonic gales and the villages themselves are generally some distance from
the sea with sand dunes forming natural barriers. However, the real worry concerns the fear of
damages to their makeshift homes as well as to their few assets. When the tiles from a rooftop
gets blown away in a gale or – in case of a thatched house – the thatch is destroyed, the family
has a tough time to repair the damage. Many houses are covered with plastic sail cloths to hide
the gaps left by a gale, which is just as well because it is perhaps the only use the sail cloth will
be put to in any case, because the boats on the beach would have sunk deeper into the sand
during the cyclone.

The more the boat and the engine deteriorate, the less are the chances for the fisher – when he
comes back – to make use of them and consequently, the more he is dependent upon migration
for survival. Most fishers, when they return, find it easier to join the shore-seine crew in pulling
the net and taking a share than to dig up their boat and spend a fortune in repairing it, only to
have to abandon it to its fate when Gujarat beckons again. Those who can sell the boats or the
engines, do so; if they don‟t, their wives will, to meet their subsistence needs when the men are

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

An important outcome of Gujarat migration is that the asset base of the fishers is reduced
drastically. This means that when Srikakulam fisheries revive once again in due course, the
fishers will be in no position to take advantage of them. Similarly, with decreasing ownership of
assets at the household level, many families have come down in social terms and their capacity
to access any support also declined as a consequence. As one woman in Mofus Bandar put it, “A
family that has only two pots can store sufficient water to drink for the day, while the
neighbouring family with ten pots can not only store water for longer but also afford to wash and
bathe with the same water.”

Impacts of more serious nature

It is no wonder that with large families to support, very few opportunities for work and
prolonged absence of their men from villages, some women find an extreme option to survive
and support their family: prostitution. This study has not explored this detail at all because of its
sensitive nature, but newspaper accounts and other reports indicate that this is increasingly the
option for some women to survive in many coastal areas. The social security nets within the
villages are strong and resilient to help the women withstand external pressures and even extend
support in case of need, but it is the internal pressures that force a few women to take this painful
option. This is however only a preliminary impression and will need further, more concrete,

On the other hand, the fact that seasonal migrations have always been an „all-male‟ activity has
long served the men as a good excuse for turning to prostitutes. As we have seen, right from the
days of Burma migration, the men had recourse to prostitutes, a fact that may well have
contributed to some of the migrant groups – who were quite well off from an economic
perspective – ostracised from their villages. Still, the prolonged periods of stay away from home
and a widespread feeling of loneliness amongst the migrants continue to force them to take
recourse to local women. As economic imperatives override social mores, their wives back in the
villages resign themselves to it, much as they have accepted drunkenness among their men as a
prerequisite for withstanding the rough sea conditions. Naturally, an important concern in all this
is the spread of contagious diseases, which have generally been considered a part and parcel of
the „migrant condition‟, but acquire increased poignancy in the face of rapid spread of AIDS
(another phantom that is more felt than seen with naked eyes) in the coastal areas and
particularly among women and children, who may have become quite unknowingly infected.

Impact on incomes

There is evidence that a few migrants did manage to succeed in their new endeavours and earned
enough to come back and retire more or less permanently. The Tindals are by far the best off
among the migrants. They built new houses, rigged their houses with the new symbols of
prosperity – cable television, double-cot beds, telephones – and even owned their mode of
transport (motor-cycles or scooters), which is indeed a big advantage in an area notorious for
poor transport facilities. Besides, they educate their children in convents, acquire landed
properties and also save their earnings as gold and cash in a bank. These people also managed to
take a lead in the affairs of the village, automatically assuming decision-making roles, aided by
the general perception that their having lived for a long time in another state made them more

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

worldly-wise and capable of tackling any problem. A smattering of languages picked up during
their travel also came handy to reinforce the respect they commanded in the villages.

On the other hand, there has been no comparable change in the lives of the crewmembers. This is
not surprising because the salaries they earn – Rs. 2000 to 2500 or US $ 45-50 per month (that is,
if the Sait does not find an excuse to bring them down further) – hardly allows them to meet their
barest needs. With no surplus left from a year‟s hard work, there are even a number of migrants
whose household economies have collapsed even as the men migrated regularly for years. Even
if the men do bring their earnings home, it is apparent that the amount barely covers the loans
run up by the family in their absence, and whatever little is left is spent in a very short while, so
the cycle of indebtedness begins already by the time the migrant leaves for Gujarat again.

Thus, a one-off setback – illness, a wedding or a death in the family – could put the family
behind for years. The utter loneliness of existence faraway from their families leads some of the
fishers to increased drunkenness and debauchery, leading not only to exhausting most of their
earnings, but also to health related problems. Alternatively, the men fall sick or not get paid their
full wages by the Sait or somehow manage to spend or lose their earnings, even as their family
runs up a sizeable debt to survive in the village, and this classic combination of factors put the
family at the grind for years to come in a struggle to clear the debts. And for those who are
unable to travel anymore for any reason, the state of affairs can only worsen. Having lost the yen
for fishing from their own village and unable to find the opportunity to move out, these fishers
take to drinking with a vengeance.

Still, it can be said that the quality of life in many households improved as a result of their male
earners migrating to work in a distant place. The „money-order economy‟ has become a vibrant
institution in itself for sending remittances home and the families of the fishers certainly made
good use of the money, often better than when the man himself was running the family. If the
conditions still remain precarious, the only consolation is that they are at least better than if the
fishers stayed at home!

Impacts on social behaviour

The women aver that things have become considerably quiet after the men started migrating to
Gujarat. The fishers were easily provoked and fights constantly broke out, particularly at the
liquor shops. At the time of elections, when the fishers were in a perpetually inebriated condition,
they were even more dangerous and hence useful to the political parties. After the fishers began
migrating to Gujarat, not only has there been a perceptible decline in alcoholism among many
men, but they are also much better behaved as befits a well-travelled gentleman. The reduction in
liquor consumption is attributed to the long periods that they are forced to spend without liquor
onboard the trawlers. They also reportedly speak less and only after carefully considering their
answers. They dress well and move about gracefully, taking care to see that their new dress does
not get ruined for any reason. Naturally, such people have little heart for political parties and

The migrants also lay special emphasis on „good breeding‟, which is considered to be an
outcome of education, so they insist on sending their children to schools. Many children are sent

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

to the „convent schools‟, where often the medium of instruction is „English‟ and the children are
encouraged to call their parents as „mummy‟ and „daddy‟. Subsequently, some of these children
would be removed from the convent school and readmitted into the government school when the
man goes away on his next trip leaving his wife to fend for the family on her own meagre
resources, but the fact remains that the children continue to be sent to school.

However, the interest in education lags behind the basic survival instincts. Children of over 12
years of age prefer to begin apprenticeship as cooks onboard the trawlers in Gujarat, and refuse
to continue their studies on the plea that there are no jobs for educated people either. Their
fathers quickly nod their assent and try to accommodate their sons onboard their own boats if
possible or on others if not.

At the level of gender-relations, while the pressure on the women has mounted, it also led to an
increased feeling of independence and self-confidence among them. “If we have lived eight years
on my earnings, I am sure we can live another eighty years without a problem”, says a woman in
Balaramapuram. She knows it is an uphill task and that the returns do not entirely compensate
for the input, but she is confident that she – and her family – can survive.

Impact of migration on the community at large

Usually, the people who do not migrate from the villages include: village elders; elected
representatives to the local panchayat, mandal and zilla parishad; aged people; physically
handicapped persons; women and children below ten years of age; persons who have secure
sources of earning within the villages (including fishing; one must remember that in many
villages, more than half the fishers tend to stay put and continue their operations), and people
with landed properties, own businesses or assured employment. At the household level, the
families which have no man of a suitable age to undertake migration (particularly single-women
headed households) are ruled out naturally.

There are also people who fear long journeys and those who like their villages too much to think
of leaving them for long durations (although necessity frequently forces them out). Some others
suffer from sea-sickness or fear working on trawlers. People belonging to non-fishing
communities, who constitute a minority in the fishing villages, also do not generally migrate.
Some people do not migrate either because they managed to do well during their previous
migrations or because their migratory experiences left bitter memories.

Naturally, the impact of the migration by a large number of people from the village is felt
differently on different categories of those who remain behind.

Impact on the resident fishers

For the fishers who remained behind and continued to fish, migration of a sizeable workforce
from the village is an opportunity in that the reduced competition at the fishing grounds allows
them to fish more freely and without bumping into one another. During the peak periods of
migration, the fishers say, the catches show a definite improvement.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

On the other hand, with mass migration, the resident fishers face two problems: one, as a large
number of able-bodied crew leave the village, it is difficult to find workers for fishing as well as
for launching and hauling the boat for fishing operations. The remaining workers demand higher
shares in the catches. Secondly, with fewer boats operating, the quantum of catches – even if
good on a per-capita basis – reduces overall, which acts as a disincentive for the traders from the
towns to come and collect the catches from distant villages regularly, hence losses mount in spite
of good individual catches. Most fishers carry their catch to the town themselves, and also
diversify fishing effort to catch cheaper and locally traded varieties. This helps them to balance
their earnings while the women in the village also get to buy some fish for processing and trade.

Impact on the fish processors and traders

For most processors and petty fresh fish traders, the migration of a large number of fishers from
the village is a major setback. Although their access to fish has been declining even at the best of
times, the reduction in fishing activities in the village does hurt them badly. Many of the people
in these categories are women, often coming from single-women headed households. Their
chances for migration to other areas or diversifying into other activities being very minimal, the
impact of migration on this category of people is quite considerable.

On the other hand, when the men are not migrating and fish catches are good, they also bring a
number of traders – bicycle fish vendors and urban fresh fish traders – who also compete with
the women for the same varieties that the latter habitually buy. This competition is not confined
to the catches from the boats, but also extends to the shore-seines, which have of late been the
sole suppliers of cheap varieties of fish for processing and petty trade. So, when the migrants are
away, fewer traders come to the village and the women can look forward to less competition for
fish particularly in the shore-seines.

There is one category of extremely poor fish traders who obtain their fish by exchanging sweet-
meats, boiled tubers etc with the fishers on their return from the sea. These women – generally
aged widows – have a maximum investment of Rs 50 which they use to buy their edible items,
and selling the fish obtained in exchange in door-to-door sale locally and in the nearby villages,
earn about Rs 5-10 a day. For this category of women, the absence of men from the village for
long periods is a major setback.

Similarly, a number of other women manage many tasks – as auctioneers, as collection agents, as
resellers on the beach, as carriers from the landing centres to the processing and/or packaging
areas etc – on the beach when the fishing activities are in full flow, and they lose much as a
result of slackening of fishing in the area.

Impact on large trader-investors

The impact of mass migration on the large trader-investors – involved mainly in export trade (for
shrimp) and urban trade (for large fish) – is even more serious than on the other categories
because, by virtue of sizeable investments made in the sector, the trader-investors are direct
stakeholders on the activity and get to lose the most when fishing fails in an area.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The average investment of a village-level trader-investor in a small fishing village seldom comes
under Rs 200 000; frequently it goes beyond Rs 500 000. With the interest built into the
procurement price of the fish, the traders are entirely dependent on good catches of fish both for
recovering their investment as well as make some returns on their investment. Year after year,
their capacity to recover their investment has become more difficult, while decreased fish catches
and increased competition (due to growing market demand) have meant that their capacity to
insist on repayment also declined. To add to their troubles, when fishers start migrating to
Gujarat or elsewhere for extended periods, there is no way the traders can recover their
investment. When pressured for repayment, the fishers actually tell the trader-investors to take
away their boats and nets as their payment; as they spend nine months in Gujarat, they have no
further need for the fishing equipment and it is in any case very doubtful whether they would
make use of it in the near future. At least a few trader-investors in every area have lost seriously
and folded up their operations.

Impact on local economy

Whenever the fishermen come back from a good fishing trip (and often a bad fishing trip too),
they generally share their earnings with a number of these establishments even as they make
their way home. Similarly, most people milling about the beach throughout the day on various
jobs – women, children, and older people – and who managed to earn a few rupees from their
labours spend them immediately. People coming from outside make purchases of salt, ice, plastic
bags, ropes etc as well as their personal needs (food, tea, cigarettes) from the local shops. Larger
traders use some of these shops as their agents for storing fish or ice, as well as to set up a
telephone to contact their offices to pass information on landings and to ask to send trucks etc.

Thus, the local economy is much dependent upon the fishing activity and a reduction in fishing
in the area automatically slows down the economy and hurts everyone. The traders running local
groceries, eateries, pan and cigarette shops, liquor outlets and PDS ration shops report a
slackening of business during the period of migration. Even barbers have been known to move
out of a fishing village because of a fall in their business with most customers having gone away
to a distant land.

One direct beneficiary in the local economy with the remittances from Gujarat is the postman.
When the families of the fishers receive money sent from Gujarat as Money Order, the postman
habitually collects his „commission‟ after making the payment. The fishers pay because they
need to keep the postman happy in order to receive future remittances. The postman can find any
number of interesting reasons for failing to make the payment or at least for delaying it for a long
time. The dependence of the fisher-families in far-flung villages on the postman is even more
acute and so also his capacity to harass them. The inaccessibility of formal banking systems – in
physical as well as professional terms – to the fishers remains a big stumbling block in their
ability to make use of more cost-effective and fail-safe methods of sending remittances to their

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Impact on social infrastructure and community development

As can be expected, a village without nearly half of its men does not have much of a social
structure left and whatever remains is largely ornamental. While this has an impact upon the
traditional systems of governance (caste panchayats), which depend on consensual decision-
making, the formal institutions (panchayats at the village and mandal levels) appear to be having
it easy for the same reason. As the vociferous majority is missing from the village, the
representatives in the panchayats have a relatively freehand in determining the nature, scope and
access to the development works for the villagers. It has been reported that the number of votes
polled in the fishing villages in the 1999 elections – which took place at the peak migration time
– were very low and the elected members in some areas resented this so much that they seldom
visited the villages afterwards.

As a large majority of the working class people are away, the opportunities are ripe for the local
elites to strengthen themselves further. Increasingly, a section of the fishers who have succeeded
in overcoming the need to go fishing completely, diversified into a range of non-fishing activities
including agriculture and thus become the biggest employers in the area. As moneylenders to the
village at large, their hold on the people and their choices has become stronger, and so also their
capacity to garner any government support to themselves. In a sense, the fishers might be
reverting to feudalism, which had never been in existence in this particular community.

With the migration of people, their traditional use rights in waterbodies – rivers, backwaters,
tanks – are weakened. The threats to their traditional rights come both from other users such as
themselves as well as from new users – i.e., aquaculturists and industrialists – who refuse to
recognise traditional rights. While in some cases, this has been the cause of migration, in others,
the weakening of traditional hold has been the consequence of migration. The vacuum created by
the large-scale departure of the fishers from an area also attracts other categories of people –
from non-fishing communities, which are equally stressed with shrinking work opportunities – to
move into traditional occupations. While fishing is still something of a skilled activity, which is
more inherited than learned, there are already indications of non-traditional castes moving into
fishing as a desperate measure. As the access to waterbodies declines, so does the viability of the
fishing operations in future, thereby setting in motion a vicious circle of never ending migrations.

It is possible that many of these changes might have happened even if there was no migration,
but the fact that a large number of fishers is away most of the time facilitates the process.

On the other hand, migration is also a liberating process, as the fishers manage to get out from
under the shade of the elites and accepted notions of tradition, duty and obligations as well as
acquire a broader world view. The general run-of-the-mill problems lose their relevance
momentarily, although awareness about such issues becomes sharper in the light of the clarity of
thought and freedom from orthodoxies that migration showers upon people. There is a constant
reappraisal of their status and values which leads to some striking adaptations, changes in
attitudes, values and perceptions. Most importantly, the migrant attempts to, and largely succeeds
in, becoming self-sufficient. New skills are learned, difficult needs are avoided to the extent
possible and diversification becomes an ingrained habit. Many women narrated how their men
refused to take orders from anyone without knowing why. Having travelled far and long and

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

experienced how power operates, they have developed an instinct about it and oppose it:
particularly when they know that the local powers cannot stop them from living life on their own

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

                       CHAPTER 6: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Migrations: An opportunity or a compulsion?

An important debate that runs through any discussion on migration concerns whether it is an
opportunity or a compulsion for the migrants. Some people consider migrations – seasonal or
long-term – to be an opportunity for the migrants to acquire new skills and move out of low
paying occupations and hence a positive thing in themselves. This strand of thought ignores the
costs of migration on the various aspects of the migrants‟ lives and overlooks the fact that given
a more sustainable and equitable distribution of resources in their homeland, few people would
willingly move out of their villages or that the new activities they enter into do not necessarily
pay better or mean working less harder and are not always secure, sustainable or, some times,
even legal, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Others, particularly in the government, consider migrations as a compulsion. In spite of the
existence of ample evidence to show that migration (both occupational and geographical) is as
much a traditional livelihood strategy among the fishing communities as, say, credit, the policy
makers have tended to treat migration (much like credit too) more as a problem, posing a threat
to social and economic stability and have therefore tried to control it rather than recognising it
for a coping mechanism that needs careful understanding and nurturing. Thus, we find very little
by way of setting up support systems to help the migrants.

Going by the conclusions of this study, one has to agree with Satyanarayana (2001:5) who argues

       “it is impossible to make any fundamental and clear-cut distinction between free and un-
       free migration and any definition of migration would be incomplete if it does not
       encompass both free and un-free types. In other words, a priori distinction between free
       and un-free labour migration is difficult to substantiate.”

There is, moreover, a continuous transition between different „push‟ and „pull factors.
Consequently, a policy will need to consider migration as a combination of both „push‟ and
„pull‟ factors and aim at a holistic response to the issue.

For many seasonal migrants, migration has been an opportunity to improve upon their material
conditions. The seasonal nature of their primary livelihoods and the subsistence orientation of
work opportunities locally make them adopt seasonal migration not only to fend off lean periods,
but also as an opportunity to increase their material base. In many cases, the income that the
fishers earn during the period of migration constitutes their „disposable income‟ or even a major
proportion of their annual earnings.

Even in case of Srikakulam where migrations have been forced on the fishers as a result of
adverse local conditions, they provide new opportunities for the fishers to better their living
conditions; afford them an opportunity to diversify and not be tied down to a particular
profession through continuous periods of adversity; reduce pressure on the natural resources
locally; enable the migrants to develop skills, knowledge, capacity and outlook necessary to

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

survive and to take advantage of new opportunities; and thus have a secure access to sustainable

On the negative side, migrations are considered to be disruptive of family and social cohesion as
well as traditional networks; exploitative and feudalistic; and frequently as unsustainable as the
activities the migrants are forced to flee, perhaps for the same reasons. The new opportunities
frequently turn out to be temporary „holding actions‟ rather than permanent solutions to the core
issues confronting the migrants. In practical terms too, difficulties abound in terms of travel to
and from the migrant village; relations with the Saits/Tindals characterised by harsh, brutal,
exploitative and deceitful tactics on the part of the latter; very hard working and living conditions;
loneliness brought on by prolonged estrangement from families and native villages; exposure to
natural disasters and risks like arrests by the Pakistan Navy, and they do suffer much because of
them. The political costs of migration are two-fold: while the migrants always remain objects of
suspicion, if not hostility, in the new area, their continued absence from the native places
weakens their capacity and share in the local systems: in both cases, marginalisation from all
kinds of legal and development support networks is the direct result. The social and emotional
costs – both on the migrants as well as on their family members – can be extremely – and often
unsustainably – high. If the fishers continue to migrate despite all this, it is clearly a sign of
desperation brought on by poor living conditions in their place of origin.

A comparison of migration in the previous and the current phases

It might be useful to compare how the three waves of migration fit into the classification
suggested by Rao (2001; cited in Deshingkar and Start, 2003), who identifies three kinds of
migration among the poor:

Type I is the migration for coping and survival – also called as „involuntary‟ because here
people have no choice of the place or type of work that they undertake, but are forced to migrate
because of economic and social hardships. In this paper, this type of migration will be called as
„survival’ migration.

Type II is defined as migration for additional work/income during lean periods, which can be
called „supplementary‟ migration because it supplements the income from primary activities.

Type III is migration for better remuneration or a better work environment or opportunity to use
skills or acquire new skills, and can be called „accumulative‟ migration.

In the Type I migration, it is the „push‟ factors – the adverse circumstances in the place of origin
– that are more active while in the Type III migration (which is by no means confined to primary
sector occupations, including as it does the mass exodus of highly educated youth from the
country in what is called „Brain Drain‟), it is the „pull‟ factors – the opportunities that are
available in the place of migration – that act as a magnet to the migrants. In Type II migration,
the „push‟ and „pull‟ factors are evenly balanced. An important point that will have a bearing on
our discussion is that there is a continuous transition between the three types of migration from
time to time.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Using the framework, it can be seen that all three types of migrations are widely prevalent at
different times among the fishing communities in Srikakulam district. While all migrations from
Srikakulam in the last 150 years can be considered to have begun as survival migrations (Type I),
once the migrants settled down and took roots in the new places, the migration quickly moved on
to become Type II or even Type III category. Type III is generally the core group of permanent
settlers, while the Type II migrants are those who constantly moved to and fro between their two
places of domicile. This can be seen in the case of the First Wave migrations to Burma as well as
in the Second Wave migrations to Gujarat and other industrial centres around the country.

The migrations in the Third Wave however differ from the other two in that they were survival
migrations to begin with and have remained survival migrations till now. There obviously are a
few people who moved into the Type III (accumulative) category, but the predominant numbers
of people remain in the survival category. In a way, there has also been a reversal of types here,
in so far as the fishers who used to undertake Type II (i.e., supplementary) seasonal migrations
have now shifted to increasingly Type I (i.e., survival) longer term migrations, indicating an
increasing vulnerability. Another point about the third wave is that the term „seasonal migration‟
itself has come to mean the reverse of its actual meaning: the migrants spend three quarters of
the year in the place that they have migrated to, and only three months in their native place.

Key differences between the previous and current phases of migration:

Using four key strands that run through the migrations from the district, it is possible to draw
some conclusions about their sustainability at different times.

1. Availability of opportunities for migrant workers

Availability of opportunities in a new area is one thing, but the more important thing is that the
opportunities are such that a migrant can take advantage of them not only without antagonising
the local populations or taking away their work opportunities but, frequently, with their active
concurrence. These opportunities could arise from:

i.     making use of resources that are currently unutilised by the local community; for e.g.,
       marine fishers from Andhra Pradesh moving into Orissa to fish in the coastal waters
       because the local Oriya fishers were not interested in marine fishing;
ii.    supplementing shortfalls in need for labour, which the local communities are unable to
       fill with their own numbers; for e.g., the import of large work force into Malaya and
       Burma in late-19th Century due to rapid growth of cities, plantation and timber industries;
iii.   finding niches that the local communities are not interested to take up themselves for a
       number of reasons – low social status or poor wages etc – and yet need someone to fill;
       for e.g., scavenging and sanitation work undertaken by Telugu fishers in Burma and later
       in Assam; migrations to the Gulf countries in more recent times; and
iv.    possessing skills that the local communities do not have and yet need; for e.g., Andhra
       marine fishers working on trawlers in Gujarat

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

In the third phase, although the new opportunities may have been strong enough in the early
stages (particularly the migration into Gujarat fisheries), they became increasingly less attractive.
If the fishers still migrated, it was more out of desperation, as the following indicators show:

i.     The migrants have moved into a wide range of occupations in various parts of the country
       and the opportunities or the earnings from these occupations are not uniform. Some of the
       occupations are very uncertain or hazardous or extremely harsh or even illegal.
ii.    Many of the activities into which the fishers have moved are nothing new. For instance,
       the migration to Gujarat had begun in mid-1970s, and remained a very low key activity
       until late 1980s, when the crisis in the local fisheries forced the fishers to abandon their
       fishing operations to move there. The only reason the Gujarat fisheries welcomed the
       migrants during this later phase was because they were willing to work in any kind of
       conditions and for very much less than the local fishers. That this move was one of
       desperation gets corroborated by the fact that the extent of migration from the
       neighbouring districts like Visakhapatnam and East Godavari – where the conditions are
       not as severe as in Srikakulam, if only because the fishers have access to alternative
       occupations – is not as widespread as in Srikakulam.
iii.   While migration has been associated with physical movement of fishers, the study team
       also met a number of erstwhile fishing households – or even fishing villages – which
       simply moved out of fishing and entered into other occupations like cradle making or
       agricultural labour. The new occupations, it must be noted, are largely subsistence-
       oriented, with even the initially successful ones quickly becoming less profitable when
       more people – often from the same or neighbouring villages – flock into the business as
       soon as they discover its potential.

2. Balance between available opportunities and population pressure

An important point about the previous migrations is that the availability of opportunities is also
delicately balanced with the number of migrants taking advantage of them. There is a limit to the
capacity of a system to absorb people and once this has been crossed, the systems become
unstable and unsustainable. This is linked also to the capacity of the local systems to recuperate
as a result of reduced pressure on them with the migration by a proportion of the users, so that
the remaining users can continue to work locally and not choke the migratory stream. The
previous phases of migrations attained a semblance of sustainability and also allowed the fishers
to return at a later time back into fisheries in the district because the numbers of migrants were
commensurate with the opportunities available.

In the recent phase of migrations, whatever opportunities existed have been choked with
increasing population flows. The prosperity that the fishing villages saw during the 1970s and
1980s as well as the improved healthcare systems – together with prolific breeding for which the
fishing communities have rightly earned repute – brought about a population explosion in many
fishing villages. This study has not tried to compare the population figures from different
censuses, but the fishers are very clear that population increased more rapidly in the last three
decades than it did in the previous century. An important difference between the previous and the
current phases of migration thus has been the impact of growing population on the latter. In the
latest round of migrations, the numbers of people so far exceeded the opportunities that in spite

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

of nearly two decades of being away, the local fishing conditions are still not considered to have
recovered enough to provide sustenance to the people.

3. Prior existence of a resident community of migrants

It is not unusual for the pioneering batches of migrants to find the new places so congenial from
a personal and a professional point of view as to convince them to settle there for good. Major
fishing villages in Orissa like Pentakota (Puri), Chandrabhaga (Konark), Sandakhuda (Paradeep)
came up as a result of mass immigration by the fishers from Andhra Pradesh in the 1940s and
1950s. The role played by the permanent immigrants – the „resident migrants‟ – in attracting and
supporting a continuous stream of people from their native places is immense and, in many cases,
crucial for the success of a migratory stream. The resident migrants provide a cultural milieu that
the migrants can easily relate to and work in comfortably; provide and strengthen social security
nets to the migrants; open avenues to new opportunities for work; and enable them to merge into
the local fabric without the frictions between the local communities and the newcomers that
migrations generally bring forth. In due course, the seasonal movement acquires a rhythm of its
own for the migrants as well as the host communities and this can be seen from the
accommodations and adaptations that the communities make to adjust to migration in socio-
economic as well as occupational terms.

Historically, in almost all migrations – and not just those from Srikakulam – there has been
always a core group of pioneer migrants who settled down in a new area, acquired a place to
stand in the new world and played an important role as a motivation as well as a source of
support to the other migrants. Over time, the migrants from each area also find security in
keeping to particular migratory paths both to avoid competition and also to draw comfort from
being with their own people.

On the other hand, although the resident migrant group might have determined the course of
migration from different areas in the current phase, it is possible to see that the importance as
well as the influence of the resident migrant group waned soon.

While the migrations in 1970s were to take advantage of new opportunities in Gujarat, those
during the 1980s were more concerned with survival needs and also took place in the
background of shrinking employment opportunities everywhere. Thus, the new waves of
migrants tried to enter into the activities that the previous migrants had been associated with and
this led to competition and friction among the migrant groups. In due course, (i) the difference
between the long resident migrant and the modern migrant was all but lost, particularly where the
older migrants had no security of tenure and thus had reasons to fear competition from their
kinsmen and (ii) the customary role of the resident migrants as a sort of local host to the
newcomers disappeared. In case of the migrants long settled in the new area and had secure
employment (invariably in a non-fishing activity; employment in the fishing industry is seldom
secure, except when one is working in a governmental institution), it has been noted that
prolonged absence from their native villages, hurly-burly of daily existence and new codes of
conduct imposed by improved social and economic status contribute to the weakening of their
traditional roles vis-à-vis the new migrants.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Two other features of the recent phase also preclude the possibility of the emergence of a
resident migrant community in the new areas: (i) the migration streams have become more
diffuse as people went to different destinations and occupations around the country; (ii) the
nature of the new occupations – for instance, as labourers on mechanised boats in Gujarat – do
not allow any set of individuals to permanently settle down in the state because the new
occupations into which the fishers move were largely characterised by uncertainties themselves.

Thus, there is an important difference between the previous phases of migration and the more
recent one, in that the latter are generally characterised by a lack of no permanent settler group in
places like Gujarat to extend support to the short term or new migrants. This would act as a
serious hindrance to the migrants in finding their feet and add to their insecurity and inability to
negotiate their way in a totally new – and alien – cultural context.

3. Opportunities for economic improvement

A third pull factor is the opportunity for the migrants to improve their economic condition and,
as a consequence, their social status. For most fishers, the income from local fishing meets their
subsistence needs, while that from migration helps them to accumulate savings. Many fishers
made a fortune during the migrations to Burma in early 20th Century and even today, the biggest
and the best houses in a Srikakulam fishing village belong to families of migrants who managed
to strike gold. In the case of Vadabalija, for instance, Schömbucher states, “Whereas in Andhra
Pradesh, they fish mainly for a peasant market selling dried fish, in Orissa they engage in highly
commercialised fishing”. The fishers from northern Andhra Pradesh calculate that they could
earn up to 60-70 percent of their income when they migrate to Paradeep. It is not a coincidence
that most marriages in many north Andhra Pradesh fishing villages take place following the
return of the brides‟ fathers from their annual migration to Puri or Paradeep.

In contrast, the best income that an average fisherman earns while on migration (between Rs.
2,000 to Rs. 2,500 per month) hardly compensates for the nature of work and the living
conditions that he has to bear with in order to earn it. In any case, when the income is spread to
take care of the fisherman‟s own expenses in his area of work and his family‟s expenses back in
the village, it does not raise the household above the poverty line. One can only surmise that if
this is still considered an opportunity, the conditions back in the village must be even more

The fishers’ perceptions about migration

The question as to whether migration was good or bad for the fishers evokes contrasting
responses. Given the state of the livelihoods dependent on the natural resources in Srikakulam,
most fishers argue that, considering migration was the only way open to them to survive, the
question is academic. It is true that they face a number of difficulties in migration; still they
consider it to be an essential coping mechanism to survive as there is no alternative to it in the
short- to medium-term. The best that one can do to help them, they aver, is to strengthen their
position so that their rights are protected and their stake increased within the system.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

The women, who are burdened with the responsibility of managing the family in the absence of
their men and have to constantly struggle to find work for survival, also echo the men‟s
perception that migration might be iniquitous and painful, but is still an opportunity in the
absence of which the conditions at home will be only worse. The fundamental problem remains
lack of opportunities at home necessitating the people to seek alternatives. In the short to
medium term, the women‟s priorities would be enhanced access to local livelihood opportunities
as well as to social security systems to address needs related to health, food, shelter, education
etc to the families of the migrants while the men are away.

Interestingly, even a majority of non-migrants – some of them directly and adversely affected
by the seasonal migration of others from the villages – too consider that migration adds to the
village economy in the long run, reduce the community‟s vulnerability and improve quality of
life all round. Education, knowledge and personal experience gained due to exposure to different
conditions is considered important for the overall development of the community.

Besides necessity, the fishers also find some positive benefits from migrations to Gujarat and
elsewhere. The security that fixed monthly salaries offer is what propels most fishers to brave the
distance to Gujarat, because fixed monthly salaries is considered a luxury that their own fishing
operations in Srikakulam cannot provide. They would prefer fixed wages in hard-working
conditions in Gujarat to irregular wages in hard-working conditions in Srikakulam. Other
benefits like having sufficient quantity to eat onboard, freedom from recurring expenditure on
fishing operations and from hassles with trader/moneylenders also contribute to a feeling of

Thus, there is a widespread acceptance of migration as something of a necessary evil, because it
provides a livelihood for a majority of people who would otherwise starve. Even for the migrant
families with other sources of income, migrating to places like Gujarat contributes over 75
percent of the family income and it is hard to visualise the ill effects that a family can be exposed
to in the absence of a mechanism like this to overcome the severe decline in the fishing activities
in the district. Implicit in this conclusion is also the assertion that, if the availability of, and the
access to, the resources on which the fishers have depended on for their livelihoods are improved
sustainably or if alternative and sustainable sources of employment are provided locally, the
fishers would rather not migrate at all, except – of course – in the traditional sense, i.e.,
undertaking seasonal migration during lean periods as an opportunity to improve their earnings,
rather than as a compulsion. This is a frequent refrain among the fishers when discussing the
issue of migrations.

Institutional responses to migration
The institutional responses to increased levels of migration in recent times have been very
inadequate in addressing the fundamental issues. There is little indication in the policy
documents that the policymakers are even aware that migration is an important issue of concern,
particularly in relation to the coastal fishers.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Government programmes to address the needs of the migrants

The only government programme that actually recognises the existence of migrant fishers and
attempts to address their needs is the group insurance scheme that has been extended to cover the
migrant fishermen as well. A few fishermen‟s families have benefited under this scheme. But to
be able to obtain the insurance money, it would require obtaining death certificates and other
documentation from Gujarat and the dead migrant‟s family finds it nearly impossible to obtain
necessary documents such as death certificates and legal clearances from Gujarat for many
reasons, but perhaps most importantly because they are unfamiliar with the official procedures as
well as the new state and its bureaucracy. These elusive documents being essential for processing
the family‟s claim for insurance, most families prefer to forego legal benefits altogether.

On the other hand, it has been reported that ever since the Andhra Pradesh government extended
the insurance benefits to the migrants in Gujarat, the Saits have been trying to evade payment of
compensation to the families of the fishers who died while in service. Thus, lack of an effective
coordination mechanism means that a good support measure actually ends up making the fishers
lose even the paltry benefits they would otherwise have received.

Government programmes to address seasonal deprivation and resource depletion

The following is a brief description of some of the more important measures undertaken by the
government to address the problems of seasonal deprivation and resource depletion, the two
factors that contribute to migration of fishers to other areas and activities.

Food for work programmes: Under these programmes, the government takes up some
development work such as laying roads, digging irrigation canals, housing etc., during lean
periods when the poor suffer from lack of work and pays them in kind, i.e., with food grains.
However, over time, the „work‟ aspect of the Food-for-Work programme took precedence over
the „food‟ part, and practices such as increased usage of mechanical means to do work have been
resorted to and the usual contractor system made its entry in order to achieve the results within
specific time periods. Political and bureaucratic influence and vested interests played a critical
part in making the programme a failure in many parts of Andhra Pradesh. The result has been
that the basic idea behind the programme – i.e., providing work to the poor – was largely lost.
The overall impact of the programme in terms of providing alternatives during lean periods has
been extremely low for the fishing communities.

Relief-cum-savings: This is a programme aimed at helping the fishers during lean periods – i.e.,
when fish catches are poor. The fishers are encouraged to save a certain amount of money in
monthly instalments for nine months in a year, and during the three lean months, they are paid
twice as much as they had saved (with the state and the central governments each contributing an
amount equal to half of that saved by the fisher) in three monthly instalments. The scheme
covers only a limited number of fishers and frequently it is the better-off fishers who are able to
take advantage of it, while the poorer ones remain out of coverage. The amount saved as well as
the final assistance package is too meagre to help the fisher households to spend even the three
months without any other help. As the duration of lean period keeps constantly increasing, the

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

capacity of the fishers to save also decreases. It is extremely doubtful if any fisherman managed
to avoid migration on the basis of the assistance released under this scheme.

Alternate/Additional income generation programmes: The government horticulture and
agriculture departments employ women from fishing villages as daily wage labourers seasonally
for various purposes, but the number of people employed and the duration of employment are
much below the requirement, hence only a handful of women manage to get work for a few days
in a year.

Many government departments – DRDA, BC Corporation, Social Welfare Department and
Fisheries Department etc – frequently undertake training and support programmes to women for
undertaking new additional/alternate income generating activities round the year. A good thing
about the programmes is that they seem to recognise that the solutions to the problems faced by
the fishers need not necessarily come from fishing related activities alone or that their needs or
skills are rarely grounded in any one sector alone.

However, the problem with these programmes has been that they tend to stick the familiar
formula of promoting a package of technologies, irrespective of their suitability to an area or a
community. For instance, a large coir-rope making unit was installed in Budagotlapalem village
which had no coconut palms in the neighbourhood or access to coir from anywhere else. This has
resulted in wastage of much energy, effort and precious development funds, and at the end of it
was completely useless as far as the fishers were concerned. Secondly, marketing problems
(development, promotion, access and sustaining demand) remain an important bottleneck and the
producer groups are completely at a loss to overcome them on their own with the result that the
production systems frequently lie idle.

Fisheries management programmes: The government undertook some management
programmes to help protect the resources and encourage their sustainable utilisation.

   A seasonal ban was imposed on all kinds of fishing in the sea for 45 days in a year to protect
    the fish during the breeding season. Access to known breeding and nursery grounds, such as
    mangroves, is curtailed. Bans were imposed on destructive fishing practices like shrimp-seed
   To protect the rights and the livelihoods of the artisanal fishworkers, fishing zones were
    determined for different fishing systems, and a Marine Fishing Regulation Act is put in place
    to enforce the provisions.

However, these programmes have either been poorly implemented or, when implemented, have
had consequences that are more negative than positive for the poor. The failure of the extension
and implementation networks of the government to make the communities relate to, and support,
the pro-poor aspects of the policies and programmes has meant that the fishers look upon all
regulations with suspicion and play no role in their implementation.

It is possible to conclude from the foregoing paragraphs that the institutional responses to the
causes or the consequences of migration have lagged much behind the issues. So far, there have
been no attempts to record the numbers of fishers who are migrating or monitor their fate in the

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

new state. No linkages have been established between the concerned departments in the two
states; hence the issue of coordinating welfare measures for the migrants in the new state does
not even arise. There is thus little by way of organised support available to the migrants either in
protecting their rights or their livelihoods. As Deshingkar and Start (2003) note:

       Although millions of poor labourers are in circulation for the best part of the year, policy
       continues to be ill-equipped to deal with this phenomenon, with the result that, outside
       their home areas, migrants have no entitlements to livelihood support systems or formal
       welfare schemes. Neither are they paid a full wage, because contractors deduct a part of
       that too. The additional burden posed by a lack of access to basic facilities is borne
       mainly by women and children.

The way forward

It has to be recognised that migration has offered an opportunity for the poor to make a living,
when none existed back in their villages. It will continue to remain important as long as there is
little likelihood of the natural resources – fish in the sea – coming back to their original levels of
abundance, which looks rather doubtful in the near future. Consequently, it is necessary to
recognise migration as a way of life and proper measures should be taken to make it more
systematic, regulated and effective in terms of fulfilling the basic needs of the poor while at the
same time ensuring that their access to support systems and services is strengthened.

Back in their villages, programmes specifically targeting the families of the migrants – for
improving their skills and capacity to undertake more sustainable, need-based, local, and market-
oriented livelihood activities – will need to be considered. The district administration has been
taking a very pro-active role in Srikakulam for improving the livelihoods of the poor (and
particularly the fishers) and by giving due recognition to the importance of migration to the lives
of the fishers, it could make the programmes address the needs of the poor better.

A third prong of the development initiatives will be to address the issue of resource management,
protecting the rights of the artisanal fishers in the face of threats from more efficient fishing
systems within the sector (i.e., trawlers) as well as from outside (industrial pollution, agricultural
runoffs, urban sewage, etc.).

1. Suggestions for improving the fishers’ capacity to cope with the ‘migrant condition’

Formalising the systems and processes of migration

While informal nature of operations is an integral part of life in the fishing communities and is
also an important factor facilitating large-scale migration of fishers to other areas, it is also a
major constraint in the fishers‟ access to a secure livelihood. Right from entering into the
contract, through the passage to Gujarat, living and working on fishing boats continuously for
months together, lacking access to regular leisure or basic healthcare, facing life-and-death
hazards at sea (both from natural disasters as well as from Pakistan Navy) until the final moment
when the Saits make the final payment, the entire course of events takes place entirely without
recourse to a formal system. Saving the earnings or sending them to their family members are

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

largely informally conducted. Ideas such as security of tenure or salary or life are not always to
be taken for granted. Once migration is recognised as an important livelihood strategy for the
poor, it is possible to consider suitable policy options for improving the migrants‟ lot.

Role of Department of Fisheries

In a context where a state is made to extend services to people who are clearly not part of that
state, there is a need for the states from which the migrants come to take an active role in making
this happen. In the case of Srikakulam fishers, relevant departments like the Department of
Fisheries as well as the local NGOs have to take a lead role in the process and begin to establish
links with their counterparts in Gujarat and elsewhere. Local NGOs working with the fishers
could be accredited to take up a via media function on behalf of the fishers.

Recording migration flows

In order to be able to coordinate the efforts to help the migrants, the first and the foremost
priority would be to set up a system to record – in detail – about the numbers of people migrating
to different parts of the country. The fishers can be motivated to report their movements at the
beginning of a season with the local Department of Fisheries officers and compiling the
information will not only give a good handle on the people and the coordination measures
required, but also the changes in the conditions contributing to migration from year to year and
from area to area. This might also provide an opportunity for the Department of Fisheries to
develop specific development programmes aimed at helping the migrant labourers – for instance,
concessionary train fares, etc.

Registration and identity cards at place of migration

By encouraging the migrants to register themselves with a relevant department in the host state
(Department of Fisheries or Department of Ports), it is possible to ensure that their access to
institutional support remains unshaken. The departments or accredited NGOs in the fishers‟
native state could provide an identity card to the fishers to ensure that they are not put to
unwanted trouble and also are assured of their rights in their host state. An important measure is
to form unions of migrant labourers, but this will need to be done with caution to avoid
antagonising the boat owners as well as giving a sectarian slant to the work force in a particular
area. A better option might be to encourage the local workers‟ unions to consider issuing
temporary membership to the migrant labourers – considering the migrants spend nine months in
a year in the same area, calling them „temporary‟ might not even be apt in any case!

Coverage of Labour acts and insurance support

Efforts should be undertaken – on a reciprocal basis where appropriate – to cover the migrant
fishers under the Labour Acts in the concerned states in order to ensure minimum wages, fixed
working hours, access to healthcare and other benefits. The coverage of insurance to the migrants
– as indicated – does not only not help them, but even make things worse for them; there is a
need for better coordination between the concerned state departments as well as the insurance
companies in order to reduce the burden on the bereaved family and to expedite the payment.
While fishing as an activity does not encourage fixed hours or timings, it is possible – and

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

necessary – to ensure that the migrants have access to shore lodgings and weekly rest. Measures
to limit the arbitrary powers of the Saits and the Tindals in terminating the services of the
migrants or cutting off their pay for various reasons are necessary, but this should be done with a
clear understanding of the fact that the Saits, for all their faults, are the only people who give
work to the poor migrants and antagonising them can only mean a cure worse than the disease
for the migrants.

Protection from seizure at high seas and recourse to legal support

The issue of seizure of the fishers at sea by the Pakistan Navy is another area that needs action at
a higher level. Already, the issue appears to be receiving some attention, but there is a need to
develop a better campaign to highlight the plight of the fishers at sea as well as in Pakistani (or
Indian, as the case may be) prisons.

Monitoring the ‘migrant condition’

It will also be the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries or the accredited NGOs in
Andhra Pradesh to periodically monitor the wellbeing of the migrants in Gujarat and elsewhere.
As the fishers repeatedly aver, the mere fact of someone regularly enquiring after their wellbeing
is not only going to improve their physical conditions, but also give them a psychological boost.
The local Department of Fisheries or other organisations and NGOs could also be motivated to
look after the wellbeing of the migrants, which might include setting up savings groups,
provision of money transfer and other services etc. Depending on how the relationships will
develop, the local agencies might undertake some awareness programmes – for instance, on
health issues such as AIDS – on their own for the benefit of the fishers.

Awareness and literacy programmes

The NGOs could undertake awareness and literacy campaigns specifically aimed at improving
the capacity of the migrants to deal with the „migrant condition‟ more confidently. The
awareness campaigns would need to focus on the institutional mechanisms that the fishers could
access in case of need while the literacy campaign should include teaching them the rudiments of
the language of the host states. These programmes could ideally be undertaken during the three
months that the fishers come home between seasons.

Obviously much else can be done but, in the short term, it involves coordination and establishing
linkages rather than on setting up new services, so the investment on the activities cannot be a
constraint for taking them up immediately.

2. Suggestions for reducing the vulnerability of the migrants’ families

While the fact that a majority of the migrants flock to certain well defined areas allows
undertaking some measures to help them at their place of migration, it is however far more
difficult to deal with their families which are spread across over a hundred villages. Collective
measures – at the macro-level and the micro-level as well as between the government and NGOs
– are necessary to effectively address the needs of the fishers‟ families.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

For the migrants‟ families, the issues that need to be tackled include:

   a.   Credit for the short term survival needs
   b.   Finding sources of work for the women within their area
   c.   Access to healthcare services
   d.   Measures to address seasonal food insecurity
   e.   Establishing regular communication channels between the migrants and their families
   f.   Social support networks to improve collective capacity as well as to avoid paying more
        than necessary for services

It will be seen that the activities suggested (which are only indicative) are not new – in fact, all or
many of them form a regular package of activities done by the government or NGOs in many
villages. What is needed is to refine the existing systems to address specifically the needs of the
migrants‟ families and those whose livelihoods are adversely affected as a result of migration by
the fishers from the villages. Secondly, there is also a need to adopt the services into location-
and category-specific packages of intervention which becomes necessary because of the varieties
of migration that the fishers have undertaken.

There is also a need for a rethink on some of the much flaunted concepts – like „alternate income
generation‟ – which roll off the tongue rather glibly but do not amount to much in practical terms.
Some of the basic necessities for setting up a successful trade – such as assured access to
supplies, consistent and well developed demand, and market access – have to be addressed more
forcefully before a new idea is sold to the people. Obviously, this is a very difficult question,
made more complicated in a generally hostile geographical area like Srikakulam, and it is for this
reason that there is a need for more work to determine even the basis of action.

Even this line of argument might be flawed in that by insisting on enhancing the capacity of the
fishers to access markets, we might be getting into the „markets-can-tackle-everything‟ syndrome
ignoring two vital issues: one, that not all people can – or will want to – get into markets; for
everyone who manages to get in, there will invariably be a number of others who will be
squeezed out. Available evidence shows that it is the poorest of the kind we have been discussing
in this report who are more likely to be marginalised in the free market economics. Secondly, by
focusing on markets and market dynamics as the purveyors of social security and equality and
democracy and everything else, there is a real possibility that we are ignoring the non-market
based initiatives completely. For instance, many of the traditional systems did not – and still do
not – function on market dynamics alone and base themselves upon kinship ties, cultural and
social networks and so forth. It will be an admission of failure on the part of human intellect if it
cannot accept that there can be anything but one solution to a problem.

With respect to healthcare and food security, there is evidence that the state support in these
areas has been decreasing over time and that the services often come with a price tag which is
not often explicit. The winds of Liberalisation sweeping over the country do affect various
services that the State has traditionally been providing to the poor. Unfortunately, the free market
logic might work in conditions where a level playing field exists and this study shows quite
clearly that for a large majority of fishers of Srikakulam, the opportunities are anything but level.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Their capacity to buy into the new systems can only decrease as more free market rhetoric gets
ventilated and the State increasingly withdraws from welfare activities.

3. Suggestions for improving the availability of, and the fishers’ access to, natural resources

Fisheries management has become an entirely new discipline in itself and one which is rapidly
evolving, and it certainly is not the intention to discuss the best sixty four options to improve the
state of the world‟s fisheries resources here. The only thing that we intend to suggest is that
whatever management regime is put in place should actively involve the fishers themselves in a
decision-making role and not just as token representatives.

An important area that has largely remained unexplored with respect to fisheries management
systems is the existence of traditional community-based management systems. As Salagrama
(2003b) notes, the fisheries management functions of the traditional regimes in Andhra Pradesh
can be categorised into:

   1.   Assertion of rights over fishing areas
   2.   Balancing fishing activities with resource capacity,
   3.   Establishment of rules of access for equitable distribution of fishing rights
   4.   Establishment of systems of governance that help to maintain the social integrity of the

The holistic and interrelated nature of fisheries management in the earlier times has given way to
reductionist approaches that have largely failed to yield any benefits either to the resource
conservation efforts or to the fishers. As the twin ideas – (i) that there are no easy solutions to the
problem and (ii) that a successful system is one which is rooted in the local reality – become
clear to everyone, it becomes imperative to understand the traditional systems of management to
learn how they worked and see if some broad principles could be applied in the planning and
implementation of the modern management systems. One thing that will again become apparent
in this context will be the widely varied nature of fisheries management regimes from area to
area, which is as it should be considering the wide diversity that characterises fisheries in a
tropical country. In other words, this will mean that a successful management framework is one
which starts with the fishing village as the basic unit and builds upwards, rather than starts from
the top in the hopes of percolating to the grassroots level in due course. And it will need to start
with the fishers as the main stakeholders in planning and implementing the management regimes.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Bavinck, M. 2001. Marine Resource Management: Conflict and Regulation in the Fisheries of the
        Coromandel Coast, Sage: New Delhi.
Deshingkar P. and D. Start 2003. Seasonal Migration for Livelihoods in India: Coping, Accumulation and
        Exclusion, Working Paper 220, Overseas Development Institute: London
Francis, W. 1907 (Reprint 1992). Vizagapatam District Gazetteer. AES: New Delhi
Johnson, D. 2001. Wealth and Waste: Contrasting Legacies of Fisheries Development in Gujarat since
        1950s. EPW Review of Agriculture, March 31, 2001.
MFB 1915. Papers from 1899 relating chiefly to the development of Madras Fisheries Bureau, Vol I –
        Bulletin No. I, p. 209-226.
MFB, 1916. Fisheries Statistics and Information: West and East Coasts, Madras Presidency, compiled by
        V Govindan. Bulletin No. 9. Madras: Madras Fisheries Bureau
MFB, 1918. Annual Reports of the Madras Fisheries Bureau, 1908-1917, Bulletin No. X, Madras
        Fisheries Bureau: Madras.
MFB, 1929. Annual Administration Report for the year 1927-28, Report No I of 1929, Madras Fisheries
        Bulletin Vol XXIII, pages 1 to 86, Madras: Madras Fisheries Bureau.
Mutyam, 2003. Sunamudi Jeevadhara: Mandasa Rythula Pratighatana, Charitra, Kadhanam (Telugu),
        Prajasakthi Book House: Hyderabad
Nayak & Vijayan, 2003. For a Few Rupees More, in Samudra Report no. 35, July 2003. International
        Collective in Support of Fishworkers: Chennai
Orissa, 1995. Orissa District Gazetteers: Ganjam, Gazetteers Unit, Department of Revenue, Government
        of Orissa
Puthra Pravin & Manohardoss, R.C.(1996) Constituents of low value trawl bycatch caught off Veraval.
        Fishery Technology, 1996, Vol. 33(2) pp: 121-123
Salagrama V 2003. Poverty, Food Insecurity and Vulnerability in Coastal Fishing Communities of Orissa,
        developed as part of the FNPP-SIFAR (FAO) Project on „Assessing the Vulnerability of Poor
        Coastal Communities to Food Insecurity and Poverty‟, Draft (November 2003); Integrated
        Coastal Management: Kakinada
Salagrama V 2003b. Traditional Community-Based Management Systems in Two Fishing Villages in East
        Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. Case study for SIFAR/World Bank funded project, “Study of
        Good Management Practice for Sustainable Fisheries”, Integrated Coastal Management: Kakinada
Satyanarayana A 2001. “Birds of Passage”; Migration of South Indian Labour Communities to South-
        East Asia; 19-20th Centuries, A.D. CLARA Working Paper No. 11, Amsterdam.
Schömbucher, Elisabeth (1986). Die Vadabalija in Andhra Pradesh und in Orissa: Aspekte der
        Wirtschaftlichen und Sozialen Organisation Einer Maritimen Gesellschaft. Steiner Verlag
        Wiesbaden Gmbh: Stuttgart.
Suryanarayana, M 1977. Marine Fisherfolk of Northeast Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Anthropological
        Survey of India, Calcutta.

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS


Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Appendix I: Mandal-wise migration of Srikakulam fishers into fishing and related activities in different states
No            Mandal                     Village               Fishermen population                    Migration to fisheries in different states
                                                                 Total18     Active     Gujarat        Maharashtra         Goa            Orissa         AP
1     Ichhapuram             Donkuru                                  1600        400             5               60            20
Mandal total                                                          1600        400             5               60            20
2     Kaviti                 Kapaskudi                                1400        350                             20            50
3                            Jalaripalem                                400       140
4                            Kothapalem                                 500       125                             15            10
5                            Chinna Karrivanipalem                      800       200             20
6                            Battivanipalem                             740       175                             25
7                            Pedda Karrivanipalem                     1200        400                             15                                50        100
8                            Pukkallavani Palem                         300        75
9                            Idduvanipalem                            1800        350             20              20            20                  20
10                           Kotha Kalingapatnam                      1150        300
11                           Vontur                                     680       200
Mandal total                                                          8970      2315              40              95            80                  70        100
12    Sompeta                Ramayyapatnam                            1050        250                             20            20                  10         10
13                           Gollagondi                                 840       300                             20            20
14                           Iskalapalem                              1820        500             5               40            50                  20        20
15                           Baruva                                   1050
16                           Kotteru                                  1200        300                             60            40
17                           Vadapalem                                  600       150
18                           Battigalluru                               980       270                                                            10
19                           Nadumuru                                   960       270                                                            10
20                           Ekaturu                                  1000        300                                                            25
21                           Yerramullkari                              680       200                                                            20
22                           Donkaluru                                1020        320                                                            10
Mandal total                                                         11200      2860              5              140           130              105           30
23    Mandasa                Bethalapuram                               920       250
24                           Thotavaru                                  830       210
25                           Geddavuru                                1040        250                                                           100
26                           Nolluru                                    700       150
27                           Meelagangawada                           1120        250                                                                         10
Mandal total                                                          4610      1110                                                            100           10
28    V Kothuru              Gunapalli                                2300        300
29                           Akkupalli                                1820         40
30                           Bypalli                                    720       150

     Information provided by the Assistant Director of Fisheries (Srikakulam)

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

31                    Dokulapadu                         1800        150
32                    Chinna Kothuru                      920          -
33                    V Kotturu                          1100          -
34                    Nuvvalarevu                        6600       2000          350   350   150   100
35                    Manchineellapeta                   3500        600   20     200   150
36                    Hukumpeta                          2950        350          150   150
37                    Kothapeta                          1420        325          200    20
38                    Kambalarayudupeta                  2300        400          350
39                    Altada                             2500        800          500    60    10
Mandal total                                            27930       5115   20    1750   730   160   100
40    Santhabommali   Bhavanapadu                        1800        500          300    15
41                    M Sunapalli                        1260        300           50    50   20    20
42                    P Meghavaram                       1350        400           50    10   20    20
43                    Geddalapadu                        1800        300           60
44                    M Maruwada                         1900        300   30      15   30
45                    Guluguvanipeta                     1150        100   20      20
46                    Pittavanipeta                      1300        100           15
47                    Cheruvugattuvani peta              1000        250
48                    Devupallivanipeta                   620        125   20                  10    20
49                    Suradavanipeta                     1400        250   30                  10    50
50                    Kumuduvanipeta                      950        150   15                  50    15
51                    Gurjandivanipeta                    520        100   20                  20     5
52                    Pedakovirjpeta                     1200        100   10                  10    20
53                    Chinakoviripeta                     800        150                       25    25
54                    Vadakothur                          920        200   20                  25    20
55                    Jagannadhapuram                     870        175    5                 110    20
56                    Umilada                             922          -                       10    10
Mandal total                                            19762       3500   150   510    105   310   215
57    Polaki          Guppidipeta                        2428        900    30    80     20    20    10
58                    Gullavanipalem                     2000        150    15     7            9
59                    Jogampeta                           600        100    20                 10   10
60                    Kambalavanipalem                    700         10
61                    Kovviripeta                         820        100    20                 20   20
62                    Kotharevu                           800        350    50    10    10    100
63                    Rajaramapuram                       920        250    30    20           10    30
Mandal total                                             8268       1860   165   117    30    169    70
64    Gara            Kalingapatnam Machilesam            942        120    60                 10    10
65                    Bandaruvanipeta                    2000        500   260    50    30     20   200
66                    Komarivanipeta                     2000        140   150
67                    Mogadalapadu                        932        157   235                      30

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

68                     Perlavanipeta Erraguddi            853        275   200                         100
69                     Vatchavalasa                       790         45    20                          10
70                     S Machilesam                      1500        400   150                         100
71                     Balaramapuram                     1400        300   150     50
72                     Dibbaluru                          930          -
Mandal total                                            12347       1937   1225   100                  450
73       Srikakulam    Kunduvanipeta                     1800        450    400
74                     Kasipeta                           620        120     80
75                     Chinaganagallapeta                 730        220    160
76                     Pedaganagallapeta                 1200        350    300                  35     35
77                     Narasayyapeta                      726         70     45
78                     Pukkallapeta                      1050        250    100
Mandal total                                             6126       1460   1085                  35     35
79       Etcherla      Kothadibbalapalem                  980        300    150
80                     Pathadibbalapalem                  460        275    150                         20
81                     Rallapeta                          730        200    100
82                     D Machilesam                      1800        500    350
83                     Musavanipeta                       500        100     50
84                     Ginnivanipeta                      530        150    100
85                     Jalari Koyyam                      540         40     30                         10
86                     Badevanipeta                       880        250    200
87                     Budagotlapalem                     900        400    200
88                     K Machilesam                                  150     60
Mandal total                                              7320      2365   1390                         30
89       Ranasthalam   Komarivanipalem                     400       100     20
90                     Kothamukkam                         738       200    150
91                     Jeerupalem                         1000       400    200    50                   95
92                     Akivalasa                          1100       300     50
93                     Jagannadhapuram                     940       300    100    50                   10
94                     Peda Kovvada                       1800       500
95                     Chinna Kovvada                      940       300
96                     Cheekatipeta                        540       135     35     35
97                     Guraiahpeta                         724       175     35     35
98                     Potaiahpeta                         635       150     30     30
99                     Donipeta                            250       100     50     25            25
Mandal total                                              9067      2660    670    225           225    105
District Total                                          117200     25582   4755   2997   1125   1004   1145

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Appendix II: Mandal-wise migration of Srikakulam fishers into non-fishing activities in different states
 No.         Mandal             Village       Gujarat   AP     Assam      Goa   Orissa   WB    Bhilai   Maharashtra   Abroad (Gulf)   Other
1       Ichhapuram       Donkuru                    3                                                                                      10
2       Kaviti           Battipalem
3                        Pukkallapalem             35                                                                                     50
4                        Vontur                          100                                                                             100
5       Sompeta          Vadapalem                 30
6                        Erramukkam                40                                                                                    200
7       Mandasa          Bethalapuram              10
8                        M Gangawada               20
9       V Kothur         Gunapalli                 20               50
10                       Akkupalli                 10               40
11                       Bypalli                   10               40
12                       Dokulapadu                40               80
13                       Nuvvalarevu                                       40                                    40
14                       Manchineellapeta          20                1
15      Santhabommali    P Megavaram                                50
16                       Geddalapadu                      25                                                                      5
17                       M Maruvada                       20        20                    20
17                       Pittavanipeta                    20
18                       Cheruvugattuvani                 80
19                       Pedakovviripeta                            10
20                       Chinnakovviripeta                          25
21                       Vadakotturu                                                               50
22                       Jagannadhapuram                                            10
23                       Umiwada                                                         170
24      Polaki           Guppidipeta              150              100
25      Gara             Vatchavalasa                                                             150
26      Ranasthalam      Jeerupalem                       25
27                       Akivalasa                       660
28                       Jagannadhapuram                  25
29                       Pedakovvada                     350
30                       Chinnakovvada                   250
31                       Cheekatipeta                     35
32                       Gurraiahpeta                     35
33                       Potaiahpeta                      30

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

34                             Donipeta                                    60
District Total                                                   388     1715     416   40         10   190   200              40   5       360

                                       Total fishing migrants from the district                                                     12772
                                Total non-fishing migrations from the district                                                       3364
                                                                  Grand total                                                       16136

Appendix III: Numbers of sailors, Tindals and Side-Tindals from different villages in Srikakulam district
  No.                     Village                            Seamen                      Tindals                    Side-Tindals
    1.      Jagannadhapuram (Ranasthalam)                                                    5
    2.      Budagotlapalem                                                                   6                          25
    3.      D Machilesam                                                                    30                          30
    4.      Vadakothuru                                          35
    5.      Badevanipeta                                                                      5
    6.      Pedaganagallapeta                                     6                          100
    7.      Pukkallapeta                                          3
    8.      Kunduvanipeta                                        10                          50                         50
    9.      Srikurmam Machilesam                                 60                          30                         30
    10.     Balaramapuram                                         5                          50                         30
    11.     Vatchavalasa                                         12
    12.     Perlavanipeta                                        35                          50                         15
    13.     Mogadalapeta                                         20                          25                         10
    14.     Komarivanipeta                                       80                          15                         10
    15.     Bandaruvanipeta                                     100                          10                         15
    16.     Kalingapatnam                                      1000
    17.     Gullavanipeta                                        30
    18.     Jogampeta                                            10
    19.     Kovviripeta                                           6
    20.     Kotharevu                                            40                           2
    21.     Rajarampuram                                         30                           2                          3
    22.     Jagannadhapuram                                      60
    23.     Vumilada                                             50
    24.     Altada                                                                           20
    25.     Kambalavanipeta                                      2
    26.     Manchineellapeta                                     5
                                      Total                    1599                          400                        218

Migration of Fishermen in Srikakulam District: A Study by ICM and SIFFS

Appendix IV: Particulars of villages engaged in cradles/hammocks manufacture and trade
No.               Village          Population of fishers     Active fishers    People engaged in manufacture and trade of cradles/hammocks
                                                                                     Men                     Women and Children
       1.   Peddakovvada                     1800                 500                 600                             800
       2.   Donipeta                          250                 100                  10                              50
       3.   Gurraiahpeta                      724                 175                 100                             450
       4.   Allivalasa                       1100                 300                 160                             500
       5.   Jagannadhapuram                   940                 300                  50                              50
                     Total number of people involved in hammock/cradle trade          920                            1850

Appendix V: Distribution of shore-seines (alivi vala) in different mandals in Srikakulam district
  No         Name of the Mandal       No. Of alivi nets in operation    No. of fishermen for each net         Season                            Remarks
1            Itchapuram                              2                                40                October to February   Voluntarily stopped operations
2            Kaviti                                  5                                40                October to February
3            Sompeta                                14                              50-60               November to March     Community stopped in Iskapalli
4            Mandasa                                 2                              30-40               November to March
5            V. Kothuru                             18                              50-60               November to March     Operations in Nuvvalarevu and Altada only
6            S. Bommali                             18                              40-50               November to March
7            Polaki                                  6                              40-50               November to March
8            Gara                                   21                              40-50               November to March
9            Srikakulam                             10                              40-50               November to March
10           Etcherla                               10                              40-50               October to March
11           Ranastalam                             33                              50-60               October to March      6 nets not operating


Shared By: