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Sociology: Fisherman settlement in Kerala

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Lifestyle of fisherman in Kerala

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Sociology: Fisherman settlement in Kerala

  1. 1. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, CALICUT SOCIOLGY AND HUMAN SETTLEMENT DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE AND PLANNING TARIQUE ALI POOJA IYER VIJAY ANURAJ CP NISHITHA SREE
  2. 2. STUDY ON FISHER FOLK OF KERALA AND THEIR SOCIO ECONOMIC ORGANISATION
  3. 3. FISHERIES SECTOR IN KERALA • Kerala’s coastline: 589.5 kilometres • Forms 10% of India’s total coastline • The density of population is very high all along the coastline as compared to the midlands and the highlands. • A very rich marine wealth with a large variety of fish and a highly skilled population of fishermen have made Kerala a leading producer and consumer of fish. • The high rainfall and a large number of rivers makes the Kerala coast especially fertile for fish. • One speciality of the Kerala coast is the mudbanks, known in Malayalam as chakara. • It is the formation of clay and organic matters on the coast that occurs after monsoon with the sea remaining calm, thus resulting in good harvest of fish.
  4. 4. DISTRIBUTION OF THE FISHERFOLK POPULATION IN THE CITY • The total populace of fisher folk residing in the state of Kerala is estimated to be 11.114 lakh, which includes 8.55 lakh in the marine sector and 2.55 lakh in the inland sector. Out of this, the number of active fishermen is 2.28 lakh. • Currently, there are 222 fishing villages in the marine and 113 fishery villages in the inland sector, where fishing and related aspects provide livelihood to a vast majority of the population. • Out of the two types of fishermen, the marine and the inland, the concentration of marine fishermen is more in Trivandrum district, followed by Allapuzha, and then by Kollam and Kozhikode districts, while the inland fishermen are concentrated in Ernakulum, Allapuzha and Kollam districts respectively.
  5. 5. SOCIO ECONOMIC ORGANISATION Fisher folk in Kerala come from three different religious groups - the Hindus, Muslims and the Christians.
  6. 6. • Hindu fisher folk are mostly found in the central and northern districts of Kollam, Allapuzha, Thrissur and Kasargode districts of Kerala. • They come from the caste groups of ‘arayans’, ‘velan’, ‘mukkuvas’ and the ‘marakkans’, respectively. • The Christians and the Muslims are converts from these Hindu castes. • There is a village headman, but the village committee called as the Karayogam takes all the decisions concerning the village. • The Karayogams are supposed to be democratic and autonomous bodies that preserve the culture and the official records of the village. However, the activities of the Karayogams are now reduced to village festivals. • Women are not members of these village committees although they can take part in the meetings. HINDU FISHERFOLK
  7. 7. • Christian fisher folk are concentrated in the southern and central parts of Kerala. They belong to the Latin Catholic community and are mostly converts from the Mukkuva caste groups. • The Church is the main institution around which the social organisation and the community of the Christian fisher folk is organised. • The priest is the main leader who looks after not only the religious concerns, but also the socio-economic concerns of the community. • Catholic fishermen are very poor, but are adventurous, aggressive and creative compared to the other two religious communities. • It is often said that the Christian fisher folk are the ‘real’ fisher folk of Kerala. CHRISTIAN FISHERFOLK
  8. 8. • Muslim fisher folk live mostly in the northern districts of Kerala. • They also have a very strong organisational set-up with social cohesion and class differentiation. • The main religious body amongst these fisher folk is the Mosque. • The elected council of the Mosque decides on ethical matters of the community. • These ‘imams’ who conduct prayers are highly respected among the Muslim community. • There are also the madrassa committees that are in charge of schools for religious instruction and for the council of elders who take decisions about the working of the village and even the fishing operations. • The members of both these bodies are elected by the fisher folk. MUSLIM FISHER FOLK
  9. 9. • Although, Kerala boasts of the highest quality of life in the country as measured by human development indicators, the state's fishing community has largely been left out of the general development experience. • Department of Fisheries (2005) stated that the literacy level, educational attainment of fisherfolk is much lower than that of the general population . • Other development related indicators such as lack of income-earning opportunities, poverty and deprivation, insanitary and overcrowded living conditions, lack of access to basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, poor health conditions amongst men and women, higher infant mortality rates, lower sex ratio and lack of access to health facilities, also show evidence of this neglect and marginalisation of the fisherfolk in the state. SOCIO-ECONOMIC BACKWARDNESS AMONGST THE FISHERFOLK
  10. 10. LACK OF ACCESS TO BASIC SERVICES OVERCROWDED LIVING CONDITIONS
  11. 11. • The fishing villages have a distinctively different appearance as compared to other villages in Kerala as well as India. • The fishing villages are characterised by 1. A very high density of population along the coast. 2. Are made up of a large number of houses clustered together and occupying the coastal fringes of the state. • In general, the houses are hutments or semi permanent structures made with mud with thatched roofs or tiles, varying according to socio-economic status. However, even these houses have a shortage of basic amenities such as water, electricity and sanitation. FISHING VILLAGES
  12. 12. • Fisher folk always face a shortage of money and live on a day to day basis. They have a high rate of dependence on moneylenders and traders .They spend all their lives managing the burden of debts. This leads to ‘cyclical poverty’ leading to poverty, low income, poor health and malnutrition.
  13. 13. TYPICAL HOUSE OF KERALA FISHERMEN AND IT’S LAYOUT
  14. 14. • Typically, the men are out on the sea fishing or on the shore mending their nets while women are busy with transporting fish to the market, engaging in small trade or busy with their household chores. The dropout rate among children is very high and very few of them complete school and go for higher education. LIFESTYLE OF FISHERMEN AND FISHERWOMEN FROM KERALA
  15. 15. • In spite of the differences on the basis of religion, the pattern of living for all the fish workers is similar. The life of the fisher folk is centred around the fishing seasons, the fish they catch and the technology they use. Fishermen are deeply religious and they fully depend on the sea and the other natural forces that control it. The fisher folk thus have different rituals to please the forces of nature. • The fisher folk have various representations of the forces of nature that control their lives. They personify all forms of nature in which they are in contact with and think of all forms of nature as alive, affecting their lives in both positive as well as negative ways. Various rituals are practised to prevent the anger or the backlash of these elements of nature. RITUALS, BELIEFS AND PRACTICES AMONG THE FISHERFOLK
  16. 16. • The Hindu fishermen of Trivandrum, Quilon and southern parts of Ernakulum who perform an annual festival called Ponkala in honour of Kadalamma (the sea). • Ponkala (a rice pudding) is offered to the Goddess of the sea, who is worshipped daily. Other offerings such as flattened rice, puffed rice, jaggery, navadhanyam (nine pulses), ghee, camphor, benzoin, sugercane and coconuts are also included. PONKALA IN HONOR OF THE SEA – MAJOR FESTIVAL CELEBRATED BY THE KERALA FISHERMAN
  17. 17. • A mandapam is constructed which is decorated with mango leaves and tender coconuts. • Fisherwomen, gather together on the 41st day at the sea coast with pots full of rice, jaggery, coconut and firewood. Ponkala (a rice pudding) is made in earthen pots on the fire. • In earlier times, such pots were sealed and thrown into the sea. However, this practice has been discontinued in recent times.
  18. 18. RITUALS TO INCREASE THE CATCH OF FISH • Fishing assumes the form of a highly ritualized productive activity with attempts to control the environment by using ritual rather than technology. • Thus, all the tools used for fishing such as the fishing craft and the gear are blessed by the parish priests for the future luck and the safety of the craft. • In some instances, Hindu mantra Vadis are also invited to use their magical mantras or chants to attract fish as well as deflect fish out of the nets of rivals into their nets for a share in the fishing catch.
  19. 19. ROLE OF FORCES OF NATURE SUCH AS THE WIND AND FIRE IN THE LIVES OF THE FISHER FOLK • The wind is considered as an allotropic form of God. • The calm sea is compared to the sleeping God, while the rough sea symbolizes that God is awake. Gales and storms are equated to the fierce breath of God. • The sky is also very important for the Mukkova and is considered as the abode of God who lives in the form of clouds in the shape of human beings and other living beings, mountains, rivers etc.
  20. 20. • Fire is perceived as the expression of the anger of God and in cases of fires in the sea, they do not sail out into the sea for a few days. • Light is considered as divine and known to ward off evil spirits or ghosts or natural calamities. Candles are lit in Churches and shrines by the Mukkovas as prayers or for fulfilment of their vows. Samuel (1998) also informs us, of the perception of the Mukkovas regarding cholera and typhoid to be caused by spirits, ghosts and demons. Thus, a campfire is lit in the outskirts of the village to prevent evil from entering the village. Magical rites are also performed before sunrise or sunset to ward off the effects of evil shadows on new nets.
  21. 21. SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF FISH FOR THE FISHERMEN • The fish also have a special significance for the fishermen. For example, Samuel (1998) in his study of the fishing communities of Kanyakumari writes of a fish called cavlai having a white mould on its head, which is believed to be because of the wrath of the God, as it did not obey him. • There is also another belief with respect to the cross-shaped structures found on the back of a few crabs. St Xavier walking along the shore found a crab saluting him. The saint made a cross on the back of the crab as a blessing. • Some fish are said to have magical potency and some are also considered as holy.
  22. 22. THE ROLE OF THE SUPERNATURAL IN THE LIVES OF THE FISHERFOLK • In general, the fisher folk are also strong believers in the influence of the supernatural on the natural processes of the body. Thus, rituals and magic- religious means of healing form an important aspect of their culture. These beliefs and practices can be attributed to the constant exposure of the fishing communities to the different forces of nature that are perceived to be uncontrollable. • For example, Ram (1991) in her study on the Mukkovas writes of how the different forces of nature are perceived as affecting the body. The body is also looked upon as a site for divine and supernatural intervention. This intervention is believed to lead to an imbalance in the body at the physical and psychological level leading to illnesses in a person. When the body is believed to be affected by the supernatural intervention, offerings are made to the Gods and Goddesses to please them.
  23. 23. • Fishermen perform rituals to get a good catch as well as to ward off the evil eye. Thus, artisans take their new fishing nets to the shore, make offerings of jaggery and coconut, which is distributed among a large number of children to come on the shore. This is a form of imitative magic, which represents the flocking of fish in the same way near the net. The net is then taken home and kept under the hatchet to ward off the effect of the evil eye. • The same ritual is repeated the next day with the remaining of the offering being thrown into the sea. A portion of the fish catch of the first day is thrown into the air in all directions to be taken by birds.
  24. 24. CULTURAL SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE HINDU, MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN FISHERFOLK • Just as the Hindu; fisher folk are worshippers of the Goddess Bhagvati and Kali and also have their own culture of cult worship, among the Christians too, the same Mata is worshipped as Mother Mary to deal with various problems related to their lives such as the daily material needs, in case of the safety of the men out at the sea, in the case of epidemics such as cholera, small pox. • Mathur (1978) writes of the Muslim fisher folk called as the Mappilas who are mostly converts from the Mukkova castes. The Mappilas follow the social rites prescribed by the Koran and the Hadith. However, their lifestyles, economic activities as well as their rituals connected with diseases and illnesses are very similar to that of the Hindus.
  25. 25. • Thus, all the magic-religious methods used for curing illnesses, rituals in relation to the sea for good catches, practiced by the Hindus as well as the Christians are also practiced by the Muslim fisher folk. Large sums of money are spent by all the fishing communities on ceremonies such as births, deaths and marriages. The fisher folk follow and practice numerous rituals during such ceremonies that form a very important aspect of their social lives. However, these ceremonies are controlled by the richer classes.
  26. 26. GRADUAL DETERIORATION IN THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL TIES WITHIN THE TRADITIONAL FISHING COMMUNITIES • Kerala’s fishing communities have shared the ocean’s resources and maintained close social and economic ties despite cultural and religious differences since a very long time. • However, Chekutty, N. P (2010) writes that the recent phenomena of globalization and mechanization in fisheries leading to international subsidies, the stringent conditions of global trade, and intense competition for fishing have seen a sharp decline in fish catch and profits leading to poverty, deprivation and consequent anger and discontent amongst the fisher folk. This has led to increasing instances of communalism and violence among the fisher folk in Kerala over the last few years.
  27. 27. • He informs that the phenomenon of mechanization, which was introduced from the mid-’60s in the Kerala waters, led to the gradual marginalization of the traditional fishermen, whose small vessels were unable to compete with the trawlers and their traditional skills started becoming redundant. This not only affected the livelihoods of the fishing communities, but also led to massive losses to the economy, reduction in the production and catch of fish and the emergence of a new class of entrepreneurs, the moneylender-cum-boat-owners who took economic control of the beaches. • This has led to increasing clashes between the new class of mechanized boat workers and the traditional fish workers, which has become more acute with the area becoming a fertile ground for the spread of social and communal tensions along the Kerala coast. However, he also argues that the changed scenario, has created circumstances that have forced the fishing communities to come together, to face the common external economic aggression.
  28. 28. OWNERSHIP OF THE FISHING EQUIPMENT • Two broad patterns of ownership exist among the traditional fishing sector of Kerala, the individual ownership and collective ownership. • The individual ownership is found mostly in the case of fishermen using the Catamaram in the South of Kerala for the ‘hook and line’ fishing and for the ‘canoe and net’ fishing in the north of Kerala • Under collective ownership, many people own the fishing equipment together. A fisherman can get a share in the investment by contributing any of the fishing equipment. • Each member has to supply labourers to the unit according to the proportion of the amount invested by him. • Failure to follow the rules of the agreement on the part of the employer or the employee is punishable by the caste panchayat, which is the local level organisation of the fishermen.
  29. 29. HOOK AND LINE FISHING, SOUTH KERALA CANOE AND NET FISHING, NORTHERN KERALA
  30. 30. PATTERNS OF OWNERSHIP OF FISHING EQUIPMENT Six different patterns of ownership in traditional fishing based on three aspects, nature of ownership, status of the owner and the status of the non-owner. They include: 1. Individual ownership • Owner worker: where the owner is also a worker • Non-owner partner: the other person is not the owner, but a partner. 2. Individual ownership • Owner worker: where owner is also the worker • Non-owner labourer: the other person is not an owner, but a labourer 3. Individual Ownership • Owner non-worker: the owner is not the worker • Non owner labourer: the other person is a labourer 4. Collective ownership • Owner workers: where the owner is also a worker • Non- owner partners where the other person is not the owner, but a partner 5. Collective ownership • Owner workers: where the owner is also a worker • Non owner labourers: the other person is a labourer 6. Collective ownership • Owner non-workers: the owner is not the worker • Non-owner labourers: the other person is a labourer
  31. 31. ROLE OF WOMEN IN FISHING • Women play a very important role in all the fishing activities right from the period of harvesting. In the preharvest period, women in the marine sector are involved in making and mending nets, preparing hooks and baits. • During the harvest season women spend a lot of time in activities such as netting in the estuaries, in clam and mussel picking, collecting seaweed and also pearl diving in a few cases (Nayak and Vijayan).
  32. 32. ROLE OF WOMEN IN FISHING • There is a strong sexual division of labour within the fishing community. Women are in general not allowed to participate in the actual fishing activities involving going out to the sea and their activities are usually restricted to the domestic sphere. • All other fish related activities such as drying, peeling of fish are carried out by the women within their domestic spheres of activities. It is a very common sight to see women working in groups near to their houses in a typical fishing village. The job of fish trading is usually carried out by the older women among the fishing community, but younger women are not allowed to work as fish traders (Ram, 1991). Majority of the women participating in the fishing activities come from the Christian and Hindu communities. Very few Muslim women are seen participating in the fishing activities
  33. 33. WOMEN SELLING FISH
  34. 34. • Mechanisation and commercialisation of fishing has led to decrease in the availability of fish as well as created problems for the fish vending women by destroying their traditional economy of fishing in the village. • Commercialisation of fishing has helped in increasing the prices of fish and also helped some fishing communities to prosper. However, it has also led to the marginalisation of the women in the fishing industry.
  35. 35. MECHANISATION OF FISHING

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