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Despite a clear order from the Legal Metrology Department, commission agents and traders at Mumbai’s famous Sassoon Docks are still reluctant to use electronic weighing scales for weighing fish catch brought in by fishermen
Although the fishermen from Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks, one of the largest fish markets in the metro city, have called off their strike, their fight is not yet over. Two weeks ago, the fishermen went on a strike demanding use of electrical weighing scales instead of mechanised ones. The Maharashtra government accepted their long-pending demand. On 1 December 2014, the Legal Metrology Department issued an order making it mandatory to use electronic weighing scales within 15 days at Sassoon Docks.
Unfortunately, despite the order, the deadlock over weighing scales continues, because commission agents and traders at Sassoon Docks are not ready to install electronic weighing scales citing cost and other factors.
On a visit to the Sassoon Docks, it was realised that several fishermen from areas like Palghar and Ratnagiri have not ended their strike despite the order passed by the Metrology Department.
The aggrieved fishermen allege commission agents, traders and exporters at Sassoon Docks of using fake weights on mechanical scales. “For every basket of 40kg each, around 5kgs is rigged or weighed low by agents using mechanical weighing scale. The loss incurred is massive and insufficient to cover the operational cost of fishing, which is about Rs1.75 lakh per expedition. So each gram of fish counts for us.” said a local fisherman at Sassoon Dock.
This led to a strike by the fishermen on 15th November, which was withdrawn after two weeks and an intervention from the state government. Here is the order issued by the Legal Metrology Organisation:
However, now the commission agents, traders and exporters, who have denied any wrongdoing in weighing the fish on mechanical scales, are up in arms. Their main contention is about who will bear the cost of setting up the electronic weighing scales. “They want electronic weighing scales to be used, then why should we bear the cost? It is their demand so they should pay for the electronic weighing scales,” responded one of the owners of an export-house at Sassoon Docks on being asked about the demand from fishermen.
In addition, the commission agents are now demanding the fish to be cleaned by fishermen before weighing, contrary to the current practise.
As of now, the weight of the basket using mechanical weighing scales is subtracted from the weight of the fish-lot collected in the basket. The fish-lot contains some amount of ice and water, which is not accounted for. Cleaning and then supplying the catch would mean a delay of about three-four days between fishing and selling. The agents and traders are not willing to take into account, the marine dirt and water in as part of the catch weighed. This extra labour and arm-twisting by agents and traders have made some fishermen jittery about the whole exercise. One of the fishermen, who disagrees with the demands for installing electronic weighing scales says that, “Yeh log apne hi pair pe kulhadi maar rahe hai (The fishermen are digging their own grave)”
An official from the fishermen's union, who doesn't want to be named, expressed hope on resolving the issue at the earliest. He said, "Discussions are going on between the unions for exporters and fishermen. We will find a workable solution soon."
Despite the order from the state government, the dispute between fisherfolk and commission agents continues. Only time will tell how things will get resolved and if fish lovers would continue to receive their regular and ample supply of pomfrets, tuna, lobsters, prawns, shrimps, Bombay Duck and other fish varieties.