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Kolis raise a stink in Mumbai
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | February 10, 2004 17:18 IST
The fishermen of Mumbai, called 'kolis', are gunning for the north Indians who are involved in the trade.
Come February 11 and the kolis will go on an indefinite strike. They have decided not to sell fish in any of the 200 fish markets unless the north Indians give up the business.
Last year the Shiv Sena had attacked some North Indian students who had come to take the railway exams.
"These bhaiyas [a derogatory term used for North Indians] buy fish from wholesale market and sell fish door-to-door in Mumbai," says Ramkrishna Keni, president of the Koli Mahila Sangharsh Samiti, an organisation that looks after the interests of the community. "Because of this we are losing customers. If some steps are not taken immediately we will be � left with no business."
The north Indians go to the wholesale markets as early as 5 am and pick up the best catch. They then put them in aluminium tubs and go to middle-class localities.
"Our koli women cannot do that as traditionally we sit in the fish markets of Mumbai. For our women to bring fish from wholesale markets to people's home is not possible. Besides, the whole transport process is very expensive as we have to hire trucks or tempo to bring our catch to the market and also pay money to loaders who help our women," adds Keni.
The kolis had come up with a novel idea of providing cell phones to the fisherwomen, so that customers who did not want to come to the market could call them.
"We tried this technique too, but it has not clicked in a big way. A lot of people still prefer to buy fish from the north Indian fishermen who are at their doorsteps. They came into this business 20 years ago... and there were only a few of them. But now there are 25,000 north Indians who sell fish door-to-door in Mumbai," adds Keni.
Asked if it is not wrong to pressure the north Indians, as it is their country too, he says, "We are the original inhabitants of Mumbai. We don't mind the north Indians coming to our city and selling bhelpuri, sev puri, ragda patis or anything else. But why are they coming in our traditional business? At least leave something for our community so that we can survive here peacefully."
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