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.



Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

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. 

India's "welcome" proposal to impose sin tax on aerated drinks is part of to fight growing sugar consumption

By Amit Srivastava* A proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages like tobacco in India has been welcomed by public health advocates. The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks is part of the recommendations made by India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the parliament of India.

Turkey meet tries to 'resurrect' Maoism, seeks to apply people’s war concept universally

By Harsh Thakor*  An International Maoist Symposium was organized by Umut Publishing on 6-7th April in Turkey commemorating 130th birthday of Mao Tse Tung. On the first day of the symposium two sessions were staged. The first session started with Volkan Yaraşır’s presentation on “Dialectics of the Chinese Revolution and Mao Zedong”.

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).