The prawn rush

The prawn rush The local fishing community around Chilika continues being terrorised by a mafia bent on silencing popular discontent against the infiltration of outsiders out to mint gold by farming prawn in the lake, Asia's largest brackish water lagoon. The Orissa government has yet to show an inclination to protect the people's interests despite a High Court directive ordering the state government to re-frame its lease policy on fishing rights in Chilika "to meet the aspirations of all the inhabitants in and around it".

The controversial lease policy of 1991 have opened the floodgates to outsiders by allowing fishing rights to non-fisherfolk. According to official sources, the encroachers are hands in glove with a mafia and are supported by local politicians and senior bureaucrats having a stake in the lucrative prawn cultivation. The names of influential encroachers, including some politicians and bureaucrats pretending to pass off as local villagers, have even been listed by the collector of Puri, but the government has yet to take any action. Meanwhile, group clashes, arson and looting continues. The armed mafia have attacked fisherfolk in the Biripadar and Gopinathpur villages, burning down their houses. In Panasapada and Siar villages, anti-social elements from outside have been trying to violently establish their control, even as an indifferent state government looks on.

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