Abdul Haque, 49, a resident of Sylhetpara in Khagrachhari's Mahalchhari, has been making his living by fishing in the Mahalchhari part of the Kaptai lake for more than a decade but he is not officially registered yet.
Abdul's family of eight depends entirely on his income that comes from fishing in the lake. But, the ban on fishing in the lake that started earlier this month has made living a whole different struggle for them all.
Every year to ensure the reproduction and natural breeding of carp-like fishes, the government bans all types of fishing in Kaptai Lake from 1 May to 31 July. Alongside fishing, the marketing and transportation of fish is also banned during the period.
Fulchan Mia, 40, is an officially registered fisherman from the same area. He also has eight members in his family. But with the ban on fishing, even he is struggling to make ends meet.
Abdul Haque and Fulchan Mia are not alone in their struggle. At least 4,000 fishermen families live in the Mahalchhari Upazila. Of them, only 1591 have been registered in 2014.
After several attempts, the registered fishermen started getting their ration from last year. But even the ration is inadequate as it comes for two months instead of three.
Confirming the matter of insufficient ration to The Business Standard, Mahalchhari Upazila Fisheries Officer Praveen Chandra Chakma said that despite the ban on fishing lasting for three months, the official ration comes only for two months.
Registered fishermen get 20 kilograms of rice every month during the ban but this year so far, the ration is yet to arrive.
Regarding the inadequate ration, Mahalchhari Fisheries Cooperative Society President Farid Mia said, "Fishing is officially banned here for three months but we receive only two months' rations, 40 kg in total in two phases, which is not enough for a family." He urged the government to pay attention to this matter.
The situation is dire for the unregistered fishermen like Abdul Haque as they do not receive the ration at all, however insufficient.
Abdul said that those who are registered will at least get 20 kg of rice but no one bothers to think about the condition of the unregistered fishermen.
"But, we, like the registered fishermen, are regularly paying revenue to the government," he said.
In the 2020 – 21 financial year, the government collected almost Tk68 lakh from the Mahlachhari fishermen in revenue, which exceeded Tk1 crore last year. Both the registered and unregistered fishermen contributed to this amount.
Sometimes, extreme poverty drives many fishermen in the area to illegally fish from the lake during the ban, disrupting the breeding process. Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation (BFDC) confiscated two consignments of illegally caught fish by raiding the area since the ban started this year.
But the fishermen leaders believe that such illegal activities are impossible to prevent without providing adequate assistance to the fishermen.
About the illegal fishing, Nasrullah Ahmed, officer-in-charge of the Mahalchhari sub-centre of BFDC, said, "We are aware that many try to illegally catch fish during the ban due to poverty. But we are on alert and conducting regular patrols so that no one can do that this year."
For regular monitoring, seven guards are deployed 'round the clock in the Mahalchhari part of the lake, Ahmed added.