Kochi : Centre’s CESS, the tax over tax, has come as a big blow to the fishing sector which is already reeling under crisis.
The fishermen unions are planning demonstrations including Parliament March to protest the Bill that leaves a lot of ambiguity in terms of parameters applicable for CESS, apart from its damaging nature.
There exists license fee payable to register fishing vessels. The newly introduced CESS comes over and above this. However the parameters applicable towards applying the tax, is not specified, This holds adverse consequences for thousands of enterprises dealing in in-board engine boats.
Already, several fishing units lie non-functional owing to depleted stocks at sea. The units still running are neck deep in debts.
Incidentally, the Centre’s new tax axe comes at a time when there is increasing demand by the fisherfolk community for a fish-drought package for relief.
Also with acute crisis looming over head from fish shortage, the Centre’s Bill now plans to sell the deep seas and all, to foreign monopolies. The draft bill towards this was presented by the Centre earlier in July. It was published by the Fisheries Ministry on its website with a note that, further amendments shall be made after consultations with respective states. Kerala witnessed widespread protests against the Bill.
Minister Mercy Kuttyamma on 2 August, called a meeting at Kochi to discuss the new Bill, that is set to trample state powers and handover seas to fishing monopolies abroad. The meeting strongly condemned Centre’s move to encroach State’s right to maintain, control and enact regulations pertaining to seas,, by handing over its reins to the Coast Guard.
At the meeting, fish workers unions unanimously demanded scrapping of the Bill amendment that requires vessels to seek permits under Merchant Shipping Act , for venturing beyond 12 nautical miles.
The Department for Fisheries forwarded a total of 48 amendments, to the Centre. Following this, the Union Minister for Fisheries Rajini S Sibal informed that 43 out of the 48 amendments were accepted by the Centre.
However in the amended draft released in November, the Centre remains unwilling to stop overseas monopolization of the state’s deep seas. To top it, the new Bill has in store additional CESS and other taxes to be levied on fishing vessels.
There are plans to organize all fishing unions under a Coordination Committee in order to take out protest including March to the Parliament. The meeting scheduled Sunday at Kodungaloor will take a final call on the matter.