Will create fisheries ministry if Cong wins: Rahul

Will create fisheries ministry if Cong wins: Rahul

Congress President Rahul Gandhi. PTI file photo

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday assured a group of traditional fishermen in Goa that a separate Union ministry would be created for fisheries if his party is voted to power at the Centre this year.

Gandhi, who arrived in Goa on Friday, held meetings here on Saturday with different groups, including traditional fishermen, people dependent on mining, environmentalists opposing a recent amendment to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification and citizens opposing handling of coal in Vasco town.

"Gandhi assured us that if the Congress is voted to power, a separate ministry for fisheries and fisher welfare would be created for the welfare of the sector," said Olencio Simoes, Vice Chairperson of National Fisherworkers' Forum.

He said Gandhi agreed to include the demand of a separate ministry in the party's manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

"Presently fisheries is only one of the three divisions of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries that functions under the Ministry of Agriculture," Simoes, who led the group of fishermen for a meeting with Gandhi, said.

The fishing community also demanded to scrap of CRZ notification 2019, describing it as detrimental to the community.

Meanwhile, a group called 'Goencho Avaz' (The voice of Goa) group also met Gandhi there and urged him to look into the issue of special status for the state.

Captain Viriato Fernandes, co-convener of Goencho Avaz, said Gandhi was positive towards their demand.

"We drew his attention towards the Gandhi family's contribution to Goa, right from the Opinion Poll (referendum) to statehood. From Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi had helped Goa to preserve our unique identity," Fernandes told reporters after the meeting.

Opinion Poll was held during Indira Gandhi's prime ministership in 1967, while Rajiv Gandhi was instrumental in giving statehood to Goa. Opinion Poll was held to decide whether Goans want to merge with Maharashtra or remain as an independent entity.

Fernandes recalled that former Congress president Sonia Gandhi had promised special status for Goa during a rally in 2009. "We want that her son to fulfil the promise to protect our land resources, identity and jobs. Rahul Gandhi reacted very positively towards the demands of the people," he said.

Goa Mining People's Front (GMPF), a union representing people who have lost their livelihood due to the closure of the mining industry, also met Gandhi.

"We had met Gandhi in the past in Delhi and he had assured to help us in the resumption of the activity. He has assured us that sustainable mining will resume in Goa," GMPF chief Puti Gaonkar said after the meeting.

People affected by pollution due to the handling of coal at Mormugao Port Trust in Vasco also held talks with Gandhi.

The Congress chief did not address media as he immediately left for Karnataka after the meetings.