Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

South Asia
They lived off the sea, now they all hate it

Battered badly, fisherfolk, the worst affected in Sunday's tsunami, are seeking housing sites that are away from the coastal belt of India.

"We never wanted to move because sea and fishermen are inseparable. But now we are forced to do it because our life is more precious," said Subramaniyam, a native of Kalapet near Pondicherry. Five thousand families have made similar demands.

Some are a bit reluctant to move away but believe their lives are more important than the livelihood. "For a fisherman, it is always good to stay close to the sea. But how can we trust it anymore?" Kathiravan said.

Both Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry governments are favourably considering their pleas. "We have already started preparations to shift them permanently to safer places. After meeting the immediate needs of survivors, we will start acquiring land for them," Pondicherry health minister E. Valsaraj told reporters.

Even children feel the same way. Four orphans, who lost their relatives and belongings in Nagapattinam, swear they never want to see the sea again. "I am scared of the sea," said 13-year-old Maghadevi. "I never want to see it again. Even if they give me a free house on the beach, I shall not take it."