Thursday, 22 March, 2018

Save our seafarers

Writing to the Centre is not enough, matter should be taken to its logical conclusion

05th March 2018, 02:58 Hrs

Many Goan seafarers working on the Cruise liners are now facing an uncertain future with the Directorate of Shipping making SSC certificate mandatory for issuing Indians Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC). All hopes are now pinned on governments, both State and Centre, to work out an amicable solution with the Directorate of Shipping.   

Goans have been traditionally employed on cruise liners even from pre-Liberation days and have been selected for their talent and aptitude to do varied jobs where educational qualification was never the sole prerequisite. The SSC rule has come as a shocker for those who have descended on their periodic holiday breaks and also for those on board who are without this qualification. This would virtually mean that the careers of many will come to an abrupt end since there cannot be an immigration clearance without a valid CDC.   

One may argue like Dr Wilfred Mesquita, former NRI Commissioner that the rule applies to the entire nation where bigger number of seafarers from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Bengal are facing the brunt. But that doesn’t stop the Goa government from taking up the case of its affected people. It should be borne in mind that Goa, which is already reeling under a mining ban, would be further hit by the unemployment created if the 2000-odd seamen lose their jobs.   

While there is a perception that foreign cruise liners are willing to recruit Goan seamen for any position, there should be clarity on the very purpose of introducing this SSC qualification clause and whether it is mandated by the companies or introduced by the Shipping Director. Furthermore, another option that can be explored is if those who are already on the job and are sailing could be exempted from this rule. Implementation of the SSC rule could be from prospective effect and not retrospect. If that is not possible, a suitable time-frame should be allowed for passing out SSC. It is not practical for a 50-year-old to come back from the ship and get back to his books to pass his SSC exam. Draconian rules cannot be effective overnight without giving a thought to the consequences. The very fact that overnight thousands of workforce will be rendered jobless across India is a cause for serious concern.   

Representation made by South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar to Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari to intervene and resolve the problem should be pursued on a priority, since time is running out. Writing a letter is not enough. If the South Goa MP finds reason in the fight of seamen then it should be taken to its logical conclusion. Communication lines should be better for the fact that Sawaikar will have to deal with his own party men at the Centre. A comprehensive dialogue is required with the government authorities and the Director General of Shipping apprising them of Goa’s ground realities. Waiting for them to respond will be an endless and futile wait.