Sri Lanka: Economic Crisis Brought The Tamil Fishermen Of Sri Lanka To A Beggar Condition
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Tamil fishermen of Sri Lanka are in pathetic condition. This has been portrayed poignantly by the journalists who went to Mullaitivu in their reports. Mullaitivu has a mostly Tamil population. Due to the acute petroleum crisis, the life of the people here has come to a standstill and their sources of income have dried up. Due to non-availability of kerosene, they have not been able to go to sea with their boats to fish.
As thousands of anti-government agitators stormed the presidential and prime minister’s residences in Colombo, stories of hunger and darkness spread all around Mullaitivu. Kerosene is so expensive in the black market that it is not possible for the fishermen here to buy it. That’s why their boats are standing on the shore. The result has also come to the fore in the form of fish inflation. While fish is a regular part of the diet here. According to some reports, fish is being sold here at a price of more than five and a half hundred rupees (in Indian currency) per kg. The residents of that area told the journalists that due to inflation they are able to eat only once a day.
According to analysts, Mullaitibu is a mirror of the general condition of Sri Lanka. The situation like Mullaitivu is the same in most parts of the country. Sri Lanka is unable to import all the essentials including petroleum due to lack of foreign exchange. Due to this, normal life has become disturbed.
Ahilan Kadirgamar, a professor of political-economics at Jaffna University, said in a conversation with the website NikEasia.com – ‘The economy has come to a complete standstill. People have no employment options. On one hand the cost of everyday living is increasing, while the income of the people is eroding. Inflation in Sri Lanka stood at 54.6 per cent in June. This is a record. Prior to this, the inflation rate was also recorded in May, when this rate was recorded at 39.1 percent. If we look at the inflation rate of food items, then in June it was 80.1 percent.
The contribution of the fish industry to Sri Lanka’s GDP is 2.7 per cent. About six lakh people got direct or indirect employment from this business. There are more than 50,000 fishermen families in four districts – Mullaitivu, Jaffna, Mannar and Kilinochchi. There are about 15,000 fishing boats in these districts. To go to sea and return by evening, 20 liters of kerosene has to be poured into a boat every day. At one time kerosene was 88 Sri Lankan rupees per litre. Today it is being sold in the black market for Rs 400 to 500 per liter.
The website Nikkai Asia has published the sad story of Mullaitivu laborer Tirukunabalasingham Amruthasan. According to this, this worker has not earned anything for the last two months. They used to wrap fishing nets. From this they used to earn three to four hundred rupees (Indian currency) per day. He had to lose a leg during the civil war. But now he says- ‘During the days of the civil war, we never had to beg and eat, as we have to do now.’