India’s mega star Amitabh Bhachan in
his now famed tourism advertisement on Gujarat says that if you have not seen
Kutch,you have not seen anything.
A beautiful spot on a dry cargo jetty of
India’s number one major port of Kandla in the same desert district, Kutch, in
Gujarat deserves the same description: If you are a man from the maritime world
and have not seen Kandla’s seafarers home, you too have not seen a home
away from home for the lone, forelorn seaman always living fatigue and
depressed life at sea.
Kandla is in the remote corner of the
country having emerged in the fifties as post Independent India’s first modern
major port on account of the country’s partition. And yet, it is the only port
in India boasting all-facility centre for visiting seamen from all over the
Though there are more than 425 such
centers in the world, the Kandla centre, started only five years ago,to be
specific in 2012,finds itself among world toppers in provision of quality
multiple services to the seafarers and won six times ISWAN awards for being
among world’s six best.
true yardstick is however its popularity among its users-here seafarers. In
2012 we had very few visiting seafarers, now the figure has crossed the figure
of 30000.In services, you name it and we provide it our strangers sea men who
may be from our own ports or from world ports. We work with the moto;strangers
are just friends, you have not met in serving them to best of our ability. I
must say this would not have been possible from the physical support we get
from our port authorities and port users.’ Joseph Chacko told this paper in an
And Chacko wants Kandla-like haven
for seafarers at all ports in India. For this a separate body called Sailors
Welfare Association has been set up.The Association was incorporate in August
2016 as a non -profit making company.Chacko who is its managing director says
that the association has started functioning at eight ports of India
where ship welfare visitors cum port chaplain to visit ships have been
What is now needed is a small piece of
land inside the ports at a token price as has been done in the case of
Kandla.The land allotted for the drop-in-centres would be used for welfare
activities for seafarers. The idea is to provide free internet, small shopping
facilities with life’s all basic necessities, indoor games.
Chacko says that a formal request letter
was sent to union shipping minister Nitin Gadkari who approving the idea
asked all the chairmen of the major ports by the shipping ministry’s letter of
January 25 this year.
But this paper understands, the response
is not as it should be like Kandla.Sources said that only one or two ports
have responded and no movement is seen at other ports.
Not liking this attitude of other major
ports,Manohar Bellani,senior labour trustee and vice president of Kandla
Seafarers’welfare Association said that the mental health of seafarers is today
very serious issue as loneliness and monotonous sea life makes life difficult
and such welfare centres come handy to be their another home away from home.
The welfare centre becomes a companion when the seafarer leaves his vessel
and visits the centre where Skype or internet facilities help them to talk to their
family members to remove their loneliness which is otherwise not possible as in
the ship it is limited to email or text.He said the other major ports should
act immediately and provide space to the newly set up organizations.He said
that their Kandla model and experience could easily be copied.
D V Maheshwari