Forgotten Island - Deepti Asthana

A remote land, covered with white sand, bordered by the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean on either sides at the southern tip of India, Dhanushkodi is a forlorn place. Once a bustling sea port, it is now in ruins after the catastrophic cyclone of 1964, which reduced it to rubbles and approximately 1800 people died. Post this, the place was declared “unfit to live” by the Government of India and since then, has been in a state of total neglect.

However, almost 400 fishermen families continue to live here and see this barren land as their only home. Some of these fishermen are cyclone survivors and have been living here for 50 years, without even the basic amenities like electricity, toilets, bathrooms or even potable water. The Sri Lankan maritime border is only 15 kms away from here; hardly a day goes by without the news of fishermen being apprehended by Lankan coast guards. They live in the constant fear of being caught, which means losing their boat and their fishing nets i.e. their entire livelihood.

Dhanushkodi, also has a religious significance for Hindus. Government now sees it an opportunity to develop the region for tourism. These local inhabitants, however, are not a part of it; as all of them have been asked to evict their land and waters without any re-settlement plan. Having spent all their lives here and possessing no education or no other skill set, it is impossible for them to settle in a new place and adapt to the new ways of fishing; as they rely on traditional methods of reading the winds, the stars and direction of waves. Constantly struggling to survive, even the proposed development of the region, has nothing for them.

It is extremely important to make people aware about their existence, who have been completely absent from the conscience of mainland India and constantly neglected by the administration, and to show the ill effects of development, if it is not inclusive and sustainable.

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