Dozens of fishing boats with nets are tied-down in rows beside the river Padma as the fishermen in Rajshahi district don’t go for fishing in the river fearing retaliation from the River Police.
They complained, the River Police was seizing their boats and were indiscriminately torching their nets. The River Police were also allegedly realising a huge sum of toll from the fishermen. As a result, being frustrated and panicky from the action of the river police, many fishermen have already changed their ancestral profession.
On Wednesday morning, some fishermen were sitting idle beside the T-embankment. They informed, being afraid of River Police, most of the fishermen of the river Padma were reluctant and afraid to go to catch fish in the river. Fisherman Monwar Ali informed, earlier they were afraid of action of BSF and the BGB but now a new menace of River Police has been added. As a result, fishermen of Padma have turned helpless.
Another fisherman Jahangir Alam informed, Bangladeshi fishermen in the river Padma were deeply worried as they were not being allowed to catch fish in the river Padma even with the cotton nets whereas Indian fishermen were catching fish with current nets unabated by entering into the Bangladeshi water territory.
It is learnt, the River Police started its operation in Rajshahi from June last year. Theywere conducting operation in the river from that time. On January 28 in 2019, the River Police seized 3,20,000 metre of nets amounting Taka 95 lakh from the river Padma.
On January 31, the river police again seized nearly 500,000 metre of nets worth Taka 1.5 crore and burnt those. River Police was terming those seized nets illegal but the fishermen complained, only the current nets are banned and illegal to use but the river police was seizing all sorts of nets and burning those. However, the river police informed, they were carrying the operation in accordance with the instructions from the Deputy Commissioner.
Benu Halder, President of small fishermen community in Rajshahi informed, after the illegal operation of the river police, many fishermen are now leading miserable lives. Now, those who are still in the river, have no way but to follow their order by paying kickbacks to them. He said, after the days toil, a fisherman can earn Taka 400 a day. So, how much kickback he would pay to river police from such a meagre amount.
Ainal Haque, General Secretary of Nabaganga Fishermen Association informed, after seizing the boats, the river police were realising a huge sum of money to release those boats. He alleged, in recent days, river police realised Taka 7,000 from Delowar Hossain from Nabaganga area, Taka 4,000 from Rubel Hossain of Berpara area under Paba upazila and Taka 7,000 from Sazdar Hossain of the same area.
Fisherman Chahar Uddin of Bahrampur area kept him boat fastened at Sreerampur river ghat. He informed, his boat remained tied at the ghat for last three months. He said, his mother did not allow him to go to river for catching fish because of fear of being arrested and tortured by the river police. He further informed, like him, two thousand more fishermen at the river Padma were panicky.
Fishermen of the district further said, they have filed a written application to the RMP Commissioner to allow them to catch fish smoothly in the river without any fear or panic of river police but so far there no action has been taken in this connection.
Mehedi Masud, Inspector of River Police in this connection said, the fishermen are restrained from using 16 kinds of nets. The size of gap of the net should be more than one and a half inches, yet police does not seize net up to two inches. He refuted the allegation of realising toll from the fishermen to release their boats and nets.
Deputy Commissioner Hamidul Haque said, he was also aware of the complaints of the fishermen. He further said, he has ordered the concerned authorities to become sure that the seized net which is being burnt is a current net. He also ordered the river police to include the local Fisheries officer with them during the operation.