​​​​​​1. A moratorium on bottom trawling and support to the fishermen is a good first step towards a solution

Context: Many Tamil Indian fishermen  boats have been reportedly sunk due to collision with a Sri Lankan Navy patrol vessel after their reported crossing over of International Maritime Boundary Line, an invisible demarcation between India and Sri Lanka.

  • Tamil Nadu fishermen’s associations have accused the Sri Lankan Navy of brutally attacking Indian fishermen. However,  Sri Lanka has denied the allegations.
  • New Delhi conveyed a “strong protest” to Colombo after the death of the four fishermen in January, allegedly at the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy. But there is no sign of a full inquiry since, let alone a credible one. The distressing incidents are neither peculiar to this year, nor inevitable.


  • Unresolved conflict of the Palk Strait: The problem has existed for more than a decade now, from the time Sri Lanka’s 30 year-long civil war ended in 2009. That was when the island’s northern Tamil fishermen, who were displaced and barred access to the sea, began returning to their old homes, with hopes of reviving their livelihoods. This however posed a serious threat to the livelihoods of the existing Sri Lankan Tamil.
  • Bottom Trawling: In Tamil Nadu, the wage of the fishermen working on mechanised fishing vessels used for ‘bottom trawling’ depends on the catch they bring back. Using the bottom trawling fishing method, they drag large fishing nets along the seabed, scooping out a huge quantity of prawns, small fishes and virtually everything else at one go. The practice, deemed destructive the world over but ensures sizeable profits for their employers. Fishermen enter Sri Lankan waters for better catch.
  • Sri Lankan response: The Sri Lankan state’s response to the problem has been largely a military and legal one, tasking its Navy with patrolling the seas and arresting “encroachers”, banning trawling, and levying stiff fines on foreign vessels engaged in illegal fishing in its territorial waters. Little support has been extended to war-affected, artisanal fishermen in the Northern Province by way of infrastructure or equipment.
  • Failure of talks: India and Sri Lanka have held many rounds of bilateral talks in the last decade between government officials as well as fisher leaders. The outcomes have mostly ranged from deadlocks, with Tamil Nadu refusing to give up bottom trawling, to template responses from the governments, with India seeking a “humanitarian response” from Sri Lanka.
  • Resistance from boat-owners: The Indian government’s attempt to divert fishermen to deep sea fishing has not taken off as was envisaged, even as profit-hungry boat owners in Tamil Nadu stubbornly defend their trawler trade. It is evident that bottom trawling has maximised not only the profits made by vessel owners in Tamil Nadu, but also the risk faced by poor, daily wage fishermen employed from the coastal districts.
  • Peril for Sri Lankan Fishermen: It is equally well known that the relentless trawling by Indian vessels has caused huge losses to northern Sri Lankan fishermen. Their catch has fallen drastically and they count vanishing varieties of fish. They are dejected as their persisting calls to end bottom trawling have not been heeded by their counterparts in Tamil Nadu “brothers”.

Urgent solution

  • In 2016, a Joint Working Group was constituted to first and foremost, expedite “the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest”.
  • Viable substitutes: Such as subsidies on inland fisheries, making fishing in open seas unviable.
  • Taking an Objective stand: Seeing the conflict merely through the prism of Tamil Nadu fishermen and the Sri Lankan Navy may not yield a solution to the problem, although that might keep its most deplorable symptom in focus.
  • Tamil Nadu must consider a moratorium on bottom trawling in the Palk Strait.
  • Supporting Fishermen: both New Delhi and Colombo substantially supporting their respective fishing communities to cope with the suspension of trawling on the Tamil Nadu side and the devastating impact of the pandemic on both sides.

Conclusion: Strong bilateral ties are not only about shared religious or cultural heritage, but also about sharing resources responsibly, in ways that the lives and livelihoods of our peoples can be protected.


2. The Government’s objection to the methodology of the Global Hunger Index is not based on facts

Context: The Global Hunger Index (GHI) report ranks India at 101 out of 116 countries, with the country falling in the category of having a ‘serious’ hunger situation. India’s standing has fallen from 94 (out of 107) in 2020.

  • To add insult to injury, the GHI puts India far below some of its neighbouring countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • The government contends that the ranks  are not comparable across years because of various methodological issues. However, it is true that year after year, India ranks at the lower end — below a number of other countries that are poorer in terms of per capita incomes. This in itself is cause for concern.

About Global Hunger Index (GHI):  It is released annually by Concern Worldwide and Wealthungerilfe.

The GHI is ‘based on four indicators” 

  1.  Percentage of undernourished in the population (PoU)
  2.  Percentage of children under five years who suffer from wasting (low weight­forheight)
  3. Percentage of children under five years who suffer from stunting (low height­for­age
  4. Percentage of children who die before the age of five (child mortality)’. The first and the last indicators have a weight of 1/3rd each and the two child malnutrition indicators account for 1/6th  weightage each in the final GHI, where each indicator is standardised based on thresholds set slightly above the highest countrylevel values.

Government’s objection to the methodology

  • It says that it is based on Opinion Polls: They have based their assessment on the results of a ‘four question’ opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup”, is not based on facts.
  • Reality: The report is not based on the Gallup poll; rather, it is on the PoU data that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) puts out regula

Various Worrying Trends

  • Slow rate of progress: India has not been very successful in tackling the issue of hunger and that the rate of progress is very slow.  Comparable values of the index have been given in the report for four years, i.e., 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2021. While the GHI improved from 37.4 to 28.8 during 2006­-12, the improvement is only from 28.8 to 27.5 between 2012­-21. 
  • A period before the pandemic : It must also be remembered that all the data are for the period before the COVID­19 pandemic. There were many indications based on nationally representative data that the situation of food insecurity at the end of the year 2020 was concerning, and things are most likely to have become worse after the second wave. 
  1. Disruption of government schemes:  Services such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and school mid­day meals continue to be disrupted in most areas, denying crores of children the one nutritious meal a day they earlier had access to.
  2. Ending of additional PDS entitlements: The only substantial measure has been the provision of additional free foodgrains through the Public Distribution System (PDS), and even this has been lacking.  It leaves out about 40% of the population, many of whom are in need and includes only cereals.  Also, as of now, it ends in November 2021.
  3. Budget cuts: While we need additional investments and greater priority for food, nutrition and social protection schemes, Budget 2021 saw cuts in real terms for schemes such as the ICDS and the mid­day meal.
  4. Food inflation:  inflation in other foods, especially edible oils, has also been very high affecting people’s ability to afford healthy diets.

Conclusion: There is no denying that diverse nutritious diets for all Indians still remain a distant dream


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