Skip to main content

How technology, investment, family network 'improved' migrant small fishers' lives

By Jag Jivan 
New research from University of East Anglia, UK, reveals how internal migration can work more productively for marginalized groups, in this case, of fishers. The research also highlights the criticality of women’s contributions, both direct and through their social reproductive and networking activities, in achieving wellbeing and sustainability outcomes.
Small-scale fishers in India are increasingly forced to migrate for their livelihoods – but new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) finds this can have positive impacts not always seen when labourers have to move for work.
Prof Nitya Rao, Professor of Gender and Development in UEA’s School of Global Development, led the study. She is author of the paper, ‘Identity, Sociality and Mobility: Understanding Internal Fisher Migration Along India’s East Coast’, published in the journal Maritime Studies.
The study looked at internal migration – in this case, from the coastal villages of Cuddalore district to the major harbours such as Chennai, where small-scale fishers find more opportunities through technological improvements, larger capital investments, scope for multiday fishing and expert promotion.
Marine fishing in India is a caste-based occupation, with its own social and political hierarchy responsible for the governance and management of common resources.
For those belonging to the subordinate fishing castes, excluded from decision-making processes, migration is an important strategy for gaining economic resources, social power and recognition as skilled and successful marine fishermen.
Factors such as coastal erosion and frequent natural hazards, the lack of infrastructure and poor marketing facilities make small-scale fishing precarious in coastal villages, such as those in the Cuddalore district examined in the study.
Migration is also rapidly increasing because of a complex range of factors: the seasonal depletion of fish resources, climate change and environmental hazards, conflict, as well as changes in the global political economy.
Prof Rao said: “This case study provides us some lessons on how processes of internal migration can work more productively for marginalized groups, in this case, of fishers.
“Contrary to the stories of bare survival, or worse, exploitation, these findings demonstrate the possibilities for positive wellbeing outcomes.”
A key finding was the “silent though critical role” of women in helping these migrant workers to build success, the study found.
Prof Rao said: “Women in boat-owning households have withdrawn from active participation in fisheries, yet without their meticulous attention to sociality and social organization, the transformation in their lives over a generation would not have been possible.”
By arranging marriages and encouraging amicable and supportive family relations, women ensure the wellbeing and success of migrant worker networks, known locally as Vagaira.
This unique social organisation is based on bonds between siblings and their marital families. The Vagaira system has helped these families to build substantial physical and social capital, including constructing good houses and providing quality higher education to their children. It also provides moral and financial support, especially in times of crisis.
Study provides some lessons on how processes of internal migration can work more productively for marginalized groups
Prof Rao said: “We find that family and its social organization, in particular kinship and marriage ties brokered by senior women, are significant factors in facilitating successful migration.
“Recognizing women’s contributions to the sector, both direct and through their social reproductive and networking activities, is crucial for achieving wellbeing and sustainability outcomes.”
Rapport and trust within the Vagaira is strong. The group members depend on each other for emergency cash and capital, technical knowledge, marketing support and conflict resolution to start and expand their business. Transparency in sharing information about their fishing assets, like crafts, gear and other equipment, creates a team spirit.
As one participant in the study said: “If an engine or a gearbox on a boat is faulty, other members share their spare engine or gearbox to overcome this situation. Secondly, if a boat lands with less catch, four to five fishers from the Vagaira group come together to analyse its causes – is it due to the mistake of the driver, a damaged net or something else. They then suggest different ideas, but also provide support to fix the problem.”
Marketing is another key area where the Vagaira members work collectively, sharing responsibilities to fetch a better price.
Prof Rao said: “Establishing a family group that is both loyal and trustworthy, and willing to support each other in times of adversity, is a conscious mobility strategy.
“Rather than taking family solidarity for granted, building social capital has been an intentional process, requiring planning and risk-taking. Their steadfast commitment to both their fisher identity and sociality ultimately paid off, making for the aspirational transition from workers to boat-owners.”
The project looked at coastal transformations and fisher wellbeing across the UK, France, Slovenia, Norway and India. It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.



'Very low rung in quality ladder': Critique of ICMR study on 'sudden deaths' post-2021

By Bhaskaran Raman*  Since about mid-2021, a new phenomenon of extreme concern has been observed throughout the world, including India : unexplained sudden deaths of seemingly healthy and active people, especially youngsters. In the recently concluded Navratri garba celebrations, an unprecedented number of young persons succumbed to heart attack deaths. After a long delay, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has finally has published a case-control study on sudden deaths among Indians of age 18-45.

SC 'appears to foster' culture of secrecy, does not seek electoral bond details from SBI

By Rosamma Thomas*  In its order of November 2, 2023 on the case of Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India contesting constitutional validity of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to give particulars of the bonds received by them in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India. SC sought that information be updated until September 2023. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai* Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech . The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Ambiguous policy': India late in advocating EVs as energy storage in national grid

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding the points raised by the Chief Electricity Authority’s (CEA's) advocacy for usage of electrical vehicles (EVs) as energy storage technology, and few associated issues . An objective reading of what he states should reiterate the enormously growing importance of battery energy storage systems (BESS) in our need to transition to a net-zero carbon scenario for the country.

Union Health Ministry, FSSAI 'fail to respond' to NHRC directive on packaged food

By Our Representative  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed deep concern over the adverse health effects caused by packaged foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Recognizing it as a violation of the Right to Life and Right to Health of Indian citizens, the quasi-judicial body called for a response from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding its selection of front-of-pack labels aimed at providing consumers with information to make healthier choices.

How national chauvinism 'overtook' sport despite cricketing glory of World Cup 2023

By Harsh Thakor*  The recently-concluded cricket World Cup was a testimony or manifestation of the thrills, intensity, twists and turns in sport and evolution of the game of cricket. It carried on the trend of the World Cups of yesteryears. Possibly, this was the best ever Indian team in a World Cup, and arguably amongst the best ever to contest a World Cup.