Masulipatnam Port: The dead dock town
Sowmya Kolla- Student, Kautilya
Machilipatnam, or Masulipatnam, which once flourished as a cosmopolitan town during the British Raj, was full of activity. Later, it was thrown into a dead dock due to multiple reasons. The port city, which once had a glorious past, is now affected due to the present state of affairs. How did the Machilipatnam port become uncompetitive compared to the other port cities like Visakhapatnam? Let’s dive into it.
There were colourful boats lined up at the canal in an ideal way, and there were no preparations undertaken to sail into the sea due to the off-season. All those associated with the fishing and allied activities were left with no work at the port. Even if the season begins, the fishers of this region are at a disadvantage of sluggish activities that take place over here. Before getting into the details, let’s try to know the historical background of this town.
This coastal town is mentioned in ancient and medieval era books on how the settlement in this place flourished. It was mentioned in some of the Buddhist texts, showing that settlements existed during ancient times. This town finds its place in “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” and “Travel in India.” The latter mentions that the “people of many nationalities with different languages existed here and was more like a cosmopolitan city.” This town also flourished during the Qutb Shahi era during the 14th and 15th centuries. Indeed, it was one of the first places the East India Company set up a factory in the early 17th century. However, the fall of this coastal town was frequented by cyclones, and soon people migrated to nearby places like Vijayawada. Following this, the British shifted its factory to Madras.
The biggest hurdle that the fishers face in this port area is the problem of sand dunes. Due to this, the boats are getting damaged after hitting the dunes as the canal is narrow. Most of the time, dredging and desiltation is not done due to a lack of any responsibility measures. Once the boat gets damaged, the repair activities do not occur due to a lack of money. Unfortunately, they do not have an insurance policy on watercraft to be compensated.
There were numerous surveys made earlier by the government officials to know the existing problem and find a solution. But the present state of affairs reflects how the action has been taken at the ground level. Thanks to politicians who made numerous promises before every general election. Unsurprisingly, many of them failed to meet their commitments after getting elected.
The once-proud port lost its charm due to such ignorance, which eventually affected the trade activities, and therefore most of the boats that reach the shore are used for fishing activities. Due to this, some of them migrated to other nearby places like Vijayawada in search of their livelihood. Some stayed back and are willing to continue living for the rest of their lives and perish over there rather than moving to other nearby places. However, these fishermen ensure that their children get proper education and make a shift in their profession as there are no employment opportunities in this portfolio for them to sustain.
Nonetheless, they are equally worried about the increase in oil prices and the low marketing cost of the fish when compared to other port areas. Also, the local fishers face massive competition from the people coming from Kakinada, Nizampatnam, Visakhapatnam, and Madras. The local fishers are unhappy about not having regulations on anglers coming from other states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Even if the complaints are filed with the police, there won’t be any serious action taken due to political unwillingness to interfere in this issue.
The only hope for them is the development of a harbour that could help them be more than a fisherman. Even though the nature of developmental activities that began right now is quite sluggish, they still hope that the harbour’s development work will soon be a reality. They believe that harbour would bring all the facilities like fish drying platforms, dormitories, commercial complex, marine police station, etc., which would eventually create employment opportunities and arrest the scenario of migration to other places in search of better opportunities. They wish to see that the harbour should be developed with state-of-art technology and ambience, eventually increasing trade activities and creating employment opportunities for generations.