ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Whose Seas, Whose Coasts?

Rehabilitation of fisherfolk should be a rights-based exercise and not mere tokenism.


For more than five years now, Mumbai’s local fisherfolk have been protesting against the controversial coastal road project on the grounds that the project will displace them of their generations-old livelihood. The conflict between the modern cityscape with its marginal inhabitants is nothing new to this city. In the 1980s, Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipal Corporation—brought to court by the pavement dwellers to resist eviction of their habitat by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)—had led to the Supreme Court’s historic finding that the interpretation of the right to life, as in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, should be extended to the right to livelihood for “no person can live without the means of living.” However, within three decades of such a verdict, when uncertainties loom large over the indigenous ecology of several marine fishing communities, the ruling government—whether in the state or at the centre—is apathetic to their situation and has not intervened with any factual clarifications to assuage the tension, while the judiciary’s response to the situation is downright inimical.

At a hearing of the petition against the project filed by the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa and Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society, the Bombay High Court has held the state government accountable for failing to come up with a rehabilitation plan for the fishers, but, ironically, not for pushing a project that has brought the community to a point of vulnerability that has necessitated their rehabilitation. While the fundamental issue at this hour should be to explore those checks and balances in the democracy that can restrain this aggressive capitalist encroachment on people’s lives and livelihoods, the high court’s earnestness for rehabilitation is an implicit acceptance of the inevitability of such aggression. This is not only a violation of the spirit of democracy, but also of the essence of “rehabilitation,” which should be a safeguard against the expedient contravening of people’s constitutional rights by governments and not a sop for allowing it.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 19th Mar, 2019
Back to Top