Fishermen have started taking preparation for the sea voyage ahead of the fishing and dry processing season at Dublar Char in the Sundarbans on the Bay of Bengal.
They will set sail for remote char areas and deep sea with nets and drywall materials, braving damage from natural disasters, storms and tidal surges.
The fishing and dry processing season will start on November 04 as catching all types of fish, including hilsa, has remained banned for 22 days from October 14.
The sea-going fishermen of Shutki Palli have been catching fish risking their lives since the time of British rule.
But they could not turn the wheel of fortune due to various adversities. Their condition is deteriorating day by day. In the face of increasing losses, many of them have lost their jobs by losing capital, net and boats. Again, many are struggling to survive in the profession borrowing money at high interest rates from moneylenders.
According to fishermen, fishermen from Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna and Patuakhali started fishing in the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal for making dry fish in the Sundarbans in the 80s.
Since then, the fishermen have been fishing amidst various adversities. They have kept their jobs afloat in the face of tigers on land, crocodiles and sharks in the water, torture of pirates and harassment by forest rangers.
According to fishermen, thousands of fishermen and moneylenders will gather at Dublar Char, Meher Ali Char, Alorkol, Ofiskilla, Majherkilla, Shelar Char and Narkelbaria Char in the Sundarbans this year as well.
This lean fishing village focuses on fishing, processing dry fish and marketing on six chars in the shores of the sea and within the Sundarbans.
The fishermen of Dubla Jale Palli built temporary houses and scaffoldings for their accommodation, keeping fishing equipment and drying fish.
Fishermen catch fish with different types of nets including behundi in the estuary and sort it. Later, the dried fishes are marketed in different parts of the country and even sent abroad.
According to statistics, revenue of Tk 2,46,67,819 has been collected from 7,325 fishermen of Shutki Palli in 2018-19 fiscal year and Tk 2,73,98,048 from 7,787 Shutki Palli fishermen in 2019-20 fiscal year.
Revenue collection from the Sundarbans and coastal Shutki Palli has increased as the government and the forest department have taken steps to stop harassment by bandits and dishonest members of the forest department in the Sundarbans, as well as to increase surveillance.
More than 500 fishermen from Rampal, Mongla, Sharankhola and Morelganj areas of Bagerhat district, hundreds of fishermen from different upazilas of Satkhira, Khulna and Pirojpur districts usually catch fish from the Sundarbans.
Each fishing boat fleet borrows Tk 5.00 lakh to 15 lakh (Tk 0.5 million to 1.5million) from moneylenders at a high interest rate.
As a result, more than Tk 50 crore (Tk 500) has to be borrowed from moneylenders at high interest rate against 500 fishing boat fleets.
In return for that loan, the fishermen have to pay interest of 25-30 thousand taka per lakh.
However, they said if the fishermen are given loans on easy terms from the scheduled banks, they will save a lot.
The fishermen said even though they paid crores of taka to the government for fishing in the coastal areas for 40 years, the wheel of fortune of the fishermen could not turn.
They said the fishermen were suffering immensely due to lack of easy loans through the Fisheries Association, lack of temporary or floating hospitals for treatment, lack of cyclone shelters and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to protect them from storms and tidal surges.
For the past 40 years, successive governments have come and gone, but none has kept their word. Influential ministers and MPs of the previous governments and high-ranking administrative officials of the government gave assurances after assurances but in reality no one ever fulfilled them.