The Meendharas of Sunderbans, their Struggle for Existence
Can you guess what these two women are doing? I took this capture in Sunderbans National Park.
The first time I saw them walking with nets, I guessed they were fishing. But what made me curious was their style of fishing. Fishing is a livelihood practiced by people of Sunderbans for ages. The topology is such that this means of livelihood fetches them just enough to carry on with their lives. Because of salinity the soil is not suitable for cultivation therefore inhabitants there resort to other means of livelihood.
Meendharas of Sunderbans
Fishing women spend more than half of their waking hours pulling fishing nets along the shore lines to catch the spawns of Tiger Prawns. They are locally called Meendharas. They then sell these to shrimp farms. Meendharas of Sunderbans earn about Rs.50 to Rs.100 per day (approx 1USD.) per person in this manner. Collection of seedlings takes place during low tides. Those who can’t afford big nets use small hand dragged nets. They drag them through 1.5 feet thick sticky mud backwards and forwards approximately 4 miles per day. There is one particular community which is involved in this fishing activity – the Bagdi community.
Tiger Prawns live in the sea but enter the Sunderban Rivers and creeks to lay their eggs. The spawns make their way back to the sea and that is when they are trapped by nets. While water provides opportunities to thrive, it also harms due to constant exposure to this saline water, but these are rarely mentioned.
I came across this elaborate study done on this issue in this pf format: The Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Prawn Seed Collectors of Sunderbans.