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India’s First Licensed Deep-Sea Fisherwoman Missing After Boat Capsizes

India's First Licensed Deep-Sea Fisherwoman Missing After Boat Capsizes

India’s First Licensed Deep-Sea Fisherwoman Missing After Boat Capsizes

Rekha, a pioneering woman in Indian fisheries, is facing a difficult time. Once known for bravely venturing into deep waters alongside her husband Karthikeyan, she’s now staring at a future filled with uncertainty. Rekha, a resident of Thrissur, Kerala, holds the distinction of being the first woman in India to be licensed for deep-sea fishing.

Just a few days ago, on June 3rd, Rekha and Karthikeyan’s life took an unexpected turn. They had set out for a fishing trip, like countless others before. However, this time, their journey ended in disaster. After a successful catch, their boat encountered massive waves in the early morning. The unforgiving sea overpowered their vessel, causing it to capsize.

Thankfully, there was a nearby fishing boat that came to their rescue. The Coast Guard also arrived at the scene, but their attempts to salvage the boat were unsuccessful. A broken rope led to the vessel sinking, taking with it their livelihood. The loss was substantial, estimated at around Rs 6 lakh. This included the boat itself, two engines, and vital fishing nets.

The financial burden on Rekha and Karthikeyan is immense. They had meticulously saved their earnings, even taking gold loans and borrowing from private lenders, to acquire the boat, engines, and nets. Now, with their equipment lost, they’re unsure of how to proceed. Rekha’s voice reflects their dejection: “While everyone else goes to work, we are stuck at home.”

The impact of this incident extends beyond Rekha and Karthikeyan. They have four children whose education is now a major concern. Additionally, three other families who relied on work opportunities provided by their boat are also facing hardship.

The path Rekha took to become India’s first licensed deep-sea fisherwoman wasn’t easy. Deep-sea fishing requires powerful engines, costing around Rs 2 lakh each. Due to a lack of regular workers willing to venture into the deep, Rekha stepped up to assist her husband, ultimately achieving a historic first.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Thrissur, he personally acknowledged Rekha’s accomplishment and contribution to the field. This recognition stands in stark contrast to their current situation.

The challenges Rekha and Karthikeyan face are compounded by the inherent risks and uncertainties of deep-sea fishing. Each trip requires a significant investment, roughly Rs 3500 for kerosene alone. While some days bring bountiful catches, others yield nothing, leaving them in “fuel debt.” The harsh conditions at sea also take a toll on their equipment. Damage to nets by marine creatures can force them to stay ashore for repairs, further impacting their income.

Rekha, however, hasn’t given up hope. Despite the setback, she aspires to get back on the water. Her dream is to acquire at least one engine so she can work on another boat. Rekha’s story is a testament to her courage and determination, but it also highlights the vulnerabilities faced by those who make their living from the sea.

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