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Thursday Webinar Series – “Social Intricacies of Coastal Community in South India”

The coastal communities are often described as people without formal education, tied to fishing; they imprison themselves virtually in their own geographical location. A series of villages with a high population density; cramped housing conditions are blatantly recorded as coastal strip having an appearance more like a slum. It is often emphatically held that ignorance with arrogance leading to group clashes; unwilling to accept alternative jobs are undesirable. They feel that they are protected by the Catholic Church. For them, health, nutrition, and water supply are of their day-to-day concerns. They are politically disorganized and unaware of their rights of appeal and unable to take time off from fisheries activities to press upon their grievances. Their social customs lead them to vicious circle of dearth. These have been the day-to-day narratives in many studies on the coastal communities at different levels in the academic circle. While these studies are aimed to offer quantitative and qualitative data, their reliability and accuracy are in the realm of professional laxity and mediocrity and that may contribute to better policy formulations.

It has been more than a half century ago ever since modern technology is introduced into fishing economy in the coastal belt of Kanniyakumari District. The popular stereotyped narratives about this indigenous coastal community are in need of a second-thought and a careful sociological scrutiny. The internal dynamisms which characterise coastal community in the present-day times must be perceived afresh and anew. Adherents have they been once with their belief-system, customs and social ceremonial practices they are now in the realm of structural disintegration. The vicissitudes in the most intimate aspects of the community can be ascribed to a few of stages of development interventions which they have passed through in the middle of 20th and goes on till 21st centuries. The first stage has come in modernisation of fishing in the mode of fish production during post-independence era that has ushered in replacing man and wind powered crafts with mechanical apparatus; and handloom cotton gears with nylon and synthetic fibre materials produced in industrial units.  The second stage is the occurrence of tsunami in 26th December, 2004 which even though was catastrophic in its nature it contributed to the enhancement of the livelihood assets of fisher folk especially in the supply of production units and better housing conditions. Added to these is the Migrating to Middle Eastern countries for fishing. It has offered better economic openings and thus improved substantially living conditions. With positive adaptations of modernization, the fisher folk have made the better use of income for the education of their children and thus set in the process of occupational diversifications. The increased housing density, road and regular bus services, new religious institutions and substantial upsurge in number of people adapting non-fishing occupations have all combined to differentiate the traditional form of life-style. The former physical character of coastal village as an isolated community has been substantially changed. It is therefore unspoken that if the coastal community of Kanniyakumari district as it is in the present scenario surpasses all forms of serotypes.

The theme analyses three different stages of development in the history of the coastal people of Kanniyakumari district. Firstly, the pre-Modernisation Phase- i.e. the period before 1950 as limited scope of livelihood; Secondly the Modernisation Phase- i.e. the period 1950-1990 as a wide range of livelihood opportunities adapted with modern technologies and other infrastructural facilities; and Thirdly, Post-Modernisation Phase- i.e. the period after 1990 onwards as crisis and distress to assets are characterised respectively. Accordingly, itaddresses the diversity and complexity of their socio-cultural, economic and political life of coastal community of Kanniyakumari district before and after the adaptation of modern technology. An extensive literature review from relevant articles, reports, books and other documents from various sources are used to compile the fragmented and scattered materials. This topic by locating the coastal community in present conditions of various facets of their socio-cultural milieu, presented with both quantitative and qualitative data, which may contrast previous studies. Employed with innovative and explorative approach, this theme offers vital background information for academics and social research in future.

Moderators: S Irudaya Rajan and Kildos Anthony Pillai

Time: 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Day 1: 5, May 2022 – Coastal Space at Peril: Identity, Mobilisation and Resistance

Day 2: 12, May 2022 – From rich resource base to the depleted seabed, deep-sea fishing: policy deficit

Day 3: 19, May 2022 – Local fishing economy, overseas remittances and social vulnerabilities

Day 4: 26, May 2022 – Disintegrating from hierarchical Catholic Church: Changing cultural traits

Day 5: 2, June 2022 – Gender equity: Women from cultural constraints to the public domain

Day 6: 9, June 2022 – Polarisation, Negotiated Peace: Dissociative Trends and Associative Mechanism

Day 7: 16, June 2022 – Migration: a Livelihood Strategy – a Missing Dimension in the Fishery Economy

Day 8: 23, June 2022 – COVID-19 Pandemic: Livelihood Crisis, and Community Resilience