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Fishermen fume on closure of NAOB gate

They demand ‘right to fish’ and compensation as per Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013

Fishermen fume on closure of NAOB gate
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Visakhapatnam: Even as the Indian Navy and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are gearing up to commission the Naval Alternate Operating Base (NAOB) near Visakhapatnam for making it the strategic centre to dock India's nuclear submarines sometime next year, the fishermen in the project affected areas have intensified their agitation demanding right to fish and compensation as per Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013.

About 5,000 fishermen took out a huge padayatra to the MRO office at S Rayavaram on Wednesday opposing closure of the gate to deny them entry into the rivers Varaha and Sarada which join the Bay of Bengal in the nearby areas.

A senior naval official recently said that they are making efforts to make the NAOB operational in the first half of 2024.

BJP MLC PVN Madhav and CPI (M) leader K Loknadham, while extending full support to the just demands of the fishermen, said the authorities concerned should immediately construct the promised jetty and allow fishermen to fish till the jetty becomes operational. They also sought to concede all the promises made to fishermen before acquiring their lands.

The State Government facilitated acquisition of 4800 acres in S Rayavaram and Rambilli mandals in Anakapalle district in 2008 for construction of NAOB by the Ministry of Defence. Then Collector, Lav Agarwal, following a protest by the fishermen from the affected villages, had promised construction of a jetty over the rivers, and a package to take care of future needs of the displaced persons. However, the closure of the main gate allowing fishermen to fish has put them in a fix about their future.

NAOB is a strategic project for the defence as it is expected to be the main base for nuclear submarines under the Arihant series. The submarines are under construction at the Ship Building Centre in the city. India has already joined the elite club of six countries comprising the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France in building submersible ships with ballistic missile nuclear capability.

Under the project codenamed Varsha, NAOB is believed to become the stealthy base for the third leg of the Nuclear Triad. Notably, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has also established a huge facility in the vicinity of NAOB. NAOB is supposed to have maintenance, support infrastructure and command control centre for effective operations of the nuclear-powered submarines.

The eastern seaboard is an important part of the country's defence as Visakhapatnam itself is home to the headquarters of Eastern Naval Command, two ports, NSTL, INS Kalinga and BDL's torpedo manufacturing facility.

Santosh Patnaik
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