The fishermen along with their families inhabited the secluded islands in Indira Sagar reservoir for eight months an year to maximize their fish catch, but in the process were left alone, devoid of even the basic services provided by the government.
The main problem was inapproachability and resultant non-delivery of essential services to this inaccessible and fluctuating population on one hand and lack of interdepartmental coordination in government on the other. These essential services included healthcare, safe drinking water, school education, supplementary nutrition, vaccination, neonatal and maternal care, shelter etc. The problem emanated from the fact that these fisher families, in order to maximize their fish catch, moved to deeper areas within the reservoirs and stayed there on the islands for almost eight months (October to June), every year. These inhabited islands were 8 – 10 in number and 15 – 20 kms deep from the banks of the reservoir called Indira Sagar (in Madhya Pradesh, India) which itself is more than 91,000 ha in area covering three districts viz Khandwa, Harda and Dewas. The government machinery, on the other hand could not reach the islands and deliver various services because there was no synergy between the activities of various departments and it did not have special means of transport i.e. boats. Also because their target group was a migratory and fluctuating and invisible population with no definite identity.
Major issues which needed to be addressed were; healthcare, vaccination, safe drinking water, neonatal and maternal care, supplementary nutrition, uninterrupted school education etc. Other issues included proper shelter, regular supply of food & vegetables, protection from snakes, power supply for lighting (through solar power) etc. All the major issues could be addressed by this initiative.
The trend amongst the fisher folk was to stay on the island for eight months at a stretch or until they needed medication or consumables. Lack of regular health check-up and healthcare resulted in frequent illness. This meant absence from work; no fish catch translated to no money. Both income & efficiency were affected adversely. Due to poverty and seclusion from society at large, they were also resigned to destiny with no hope for their future.
The affected group was fisher folk (men, women & children), who in general, belonged to one of the lowest rung of society, both socially & economically. Their lot included fishermen, their wives, who helped them in fishing & children, who could not be left behind on the mainland. The composition of inhabitants of any island at any given point of time kept changing like that of passengers of a moving bus after every stop. This fluctuating population was not only inaccessible but also invisible to the government machinery and therefore, out of sight – out of mind, was devoid of any of the services delivered by the government.
Moreover these people, having being neglected by society and government for generations, had accepted this dismal condition of their lives as their fate and had resigned to it.