Over the past few months, I have been sharing the story of Pedda Jalaripeta, a remote slum in Visakhapatnam. It is a slum with rich history and long legacy. Last month in my post, Social Resilience in a Slum- The Social Capital of Pedda Jalaripeta.I discussed the role of social capital in the long-term resilience of Pedda Jalaripeta. More specifically, I elaborated on the bonding, bridging and linking capital of Grama Sabha.
Bonding relationships include ties between family members, close friends or neighbors, these are particularly close and ‘inward looking’ relationships.
Bridging relationships are outward looking ‘horizontal relationships’ with similar entities.
Linking relationships are vertical relationships with organizations that have influence over the circumstances of the community.
Grama Sabha or Village Assembly, has been part of Pedda Jalaripeta’s history for over six decades, it is an ancient form of village administration which is widely followed by several other fishing villages in the region. This week, I will share the social capital of the newest institution in Pedda Jalaripeta. The Fishermen Youth Welfare Association (FYWA) was established in 2001 by the younger fishermen in the region and is relatively a new entity in town.
FYWA Bonding Capital
FYWA’s bonding capital is relatively low especially with the senior fishermen who consider the FYWA leaders, as ‘arrogant young men’ (Senior citizen focus group meeting 5/22/2014). Even with its low bonding capital, the FYWA is not afraid of taking unpopular steps such as closing nearly 13 illegal liquor/alcohol shops within the community. Alcoholism is epidemic in PJ, and while closing these shops allowed for a substantial reduction in alcohol consumption.
Author: What percent of income do they (fishermen) spend on alcohol?
FYWA Secretary: They (the fishermen) easily spend 50% of their income on alcohol without thinking. They forget all their responsibilities, buying food or paying school fees. None of those are important to them while drinking, they just spend all their money on alcohol.
Author: Did you see any difference in the community after closing the belt shops?
FYWA Secretary: A huge difference, previously the fishermen used to come back from fishing and directly go to the belt shop (alcohol) since the closing of all the Illegal liquor shops  in area, there has been a huge drop in alcohol consumption.
Even with the unpopular steps, FYWA improved its social standing with the younger fishermen, because they recognize FYWA as a vital link between them and external agencies. For example, when the fishermen were required to register their boats and get fishing licenses through the Department of Fisheries, they approached the FYWA members to help them navigate the bureaucratic process. Similarly, when the Department of Fisheries had a welfare scheme where the fishermen were eligible to get iceboxes at half the market value, the department approached the FYWA to spread the word in the community and help the residents with the application process.
Figure 1:FYWA conducting workshops and events in Pedda Jalaripeta
Source: FYWA facebook page.
FYWA Bridging Capital
Since its inception in 2001 FYWA has been part of Keratam Network (Keratam translates to sea wave). Keratam is a bridging network among fishermen organizations in the Visakhapatnam area. Keratam encourages community-to-community exchange visits to innovate and act together. Over the years the Keratam Network filed a variety of court cases against the government agencies to fight for their rights, two of the high-profile cases were:
2003: Keratam network filed a lawsuit against the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA), arguing that a proposed road widening violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification. The court case halted the project for three years and the project was eventually shelved .
2006: Keratam network filed lawsuit against the VUDA regarding new constructions in the Coastal Restriction Zone. The high court ordered the GVMC and VUDA to demolish all the new construction in Visakhapatnam’s CRZ area .
The horizontal networks like Keratam have gained international recognition due to their unorthodox approach to urban poverty. Appadurai’s (2001) oft-cited article on Deep Democracy purports that these lateral connections empower the urban poor.
FYWA Linking Capital
During the late 1990s, Action Aid partnered with a local NGO in Visakhapatnam and started training volunteers about right-based activism. Action Aid trained the young fishermen in Pedda Jalaripeta under fellowship program in a human rights-based approach where the term beneficiary is replaced with the term rights holder. Action Aid envisaged a long-term presence in the Visakhapatnam area and made a transformative impact on the fishing community taking their collective struggles to the next level.
Unlike FYWA members, the Grama Sabha leaders are illiterate and, therefore, depend on the government officials or the elected representatives to navigate bureaucratic processes (e.g.: boat registration, applying for loans or fishing licenses). The rights-based approach promoted by action aid overwhelms the PJ’s older generation leaders (Grama Sabha). The FYWA members, who are trained under the rights based philosophy are willing to challenge the government officials in court for their human rights, their fishing rights and their community rights.
Through the link with Action Aid, the Pedda Jalaripeta today has a new generation of leaders who are confident, perceptive and undaunted by the either government red tape or private interests. Action Aid has injected massive doses of knowledge and confidence into the FYWA and other fishermen organizations across the Visakhapatnam Coast line and transformed the fishermen community from one of subdued illiterate urban poor to a shrewd political machine that is willing to fight tooth and nail to protect the quality of life in their community. The close link between the international NGO and the local fishermen is critical to this transformation.
CRZ is a 1991 Indian federal law, which was revised and updated in 2011. This federal law reconciles three objectives: protection of livelihoods of traditional fisher-folk communities; preservation of coastal ecology; and promotion of economic activity that have necessarily to be located in coastal regions. The primary function of CRZ was to regulate development along the coastal line.
Appadurai, a. (2001). Deep Democracy: Urban Governmentality and the Horizon of Politics. Environment and Urbanization, 13(2), 21–47. doi:10.1215/08992363-14-1-21