Migration Diaries

Life in a cage
Authors: Kalka Nagamma
Languages Known
Wife, 2 Children
Migrated From
Sana Arjipalli
Migrated To
Malpe, Karnataka
Types of Work


Reason for Migration


Gareya had followed the norm of his forefathers, of remaining in his coastal village and setting out each day from his settlement for fish in the waters of the Bay of Bengal. Over the last few years, he could barely provide food for his family for two or three days with the money he made from selling the fish he caught. On a few occasions, he had to go home empty-handed, which enraged him. Even his fishing village of Sana Arjipalli had some small industries, there was no regular employment. With a wife and two children to care for, Gareya found that his family’s financial condition was deeply distressing.

Gareya while working in Malpe coast of Karnataka. Photo by M. Jengali.

Against his wishes, Gareya stepped out to another state to work as a migrant fisher, motivated by thoughts of supporting his young children’s health and education, and with his family’s future on his mind.

Now 29, he has been migrating from one state to another for the past four or five years. His destination depends on the fishing season. In the last three to four years, he has been to Malpe in Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, and other states with large fishing harbors. He has worked on both trawl boats as well as traditional boats operating gill nets. He currently lives in Malpe, where he fishes aboard a trawl vessel.  Gareya stays for 4 or 5 months in this town, at a stretch, before earning enough money to return home. Approximately 12 or 13 people fish in a single trawler boat, and they all stay out at sea for about 7 or 8 days. As is the custom in this harbor, it is the trawler owner’s responsibility to cover the expense of meals while they are at sea. In four or five months, Gareya makes roughly Rs.15,000. He keeps Rs 5000 for personal needs and sends the remaining Rs 10,000 to his family.

Gareya while working in Malpe coast of Karnataka. Photo by M. Jengali.

Unfortunately, food and drink are not readily available where he lives. He can barely afford one meal a day and has to go hungry at times. This takes a toll on his health. Spending long durations at sea under uncomfortable conditions, Gareya developed a persistent cough, and cold, and often had a fever. He even contracted dengue once because of the unhygienic conditions at the harbors. The nearest hospital from the harbor was 5 km away, and his friends from the neighborhood drove him to the hospital, where he was admitted for three days. He had to pay for all the medicine with his personal resources as the employer offered no assistance. Because he was too sick to go fishing for a long time, he had to bear the expenses of his meals on his own. He remarked, “I felt like I was a prisoner, in an open cage.”

Eventually, Gareya returned to his village, where he received medical attention and recovered from dengue. Despite the recent ordeal, he returned to Malpe because, staying back in Sana Arjapalli, he couldn’t guarantee his children a bright future. To ensure their happiness and the future of their children, he had to move to a different state to make a living, even if it felt like living in an open cage.

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