Working in India / by Francisco Blaha

My Terms of Reference (ToRs) say something like: "The overall objective of your mission is to support India in strengthening its capacity to achieve economic growth and sustainable development, and ultimately poverty reduction, through further integration into the global trading system, by increasing the compliance of its fisheries products, and by reducing costs and impediments to trade"...

When I read things like that, I can’t avoid thinking that if I was able to facilitate economic growth and reduce poverty for the whole of India, in 3 weeks and by working with Fisheries Inspectors... then my fees should be 1000 times bigger.... 

In any case India is always overwhelming and you never ready for it. Over the years I become very zen about this fact, I get off the plane and feel like when I’m paddling out with my board and a massive wave is starting to break just in front of me... there is no way out. So I take deep breath, forget all my preconceptions and try to duck-dive underneath, hoping that I’ll make it on the other side.

Trying to enumerate India's challenges would be impossible... Starting that is more like a universe than a country! Each sate has its owns set of issues. 

The one that hits me the most, is just the population and the inequality among them... The challenges of feeding its population is on a scale not faced by any other place on hearth, and is not getting easier, India is projected to have 404 million urban dwellers in 2050.

Fisheries, is small in comparison to others income earning activities (contributes only 1.07% of GDP), and employs about 14.5 million people all across the country, and is incredible diverse; the boat types ranges from the traditional catamarans, masula boats, plank-built boats, dug out canoes, machwas, dhonis to the present day motorized fibre-glass boats, mechanized trawlers and gillnetters.

And if you have been here, is fair to say that compliance is not a strong point of Indian society... at any level. Hence training people and developing compliance systems is as much a technical, as it is a cultural challenge. 

In most societies I worked, the word NO is the end of the issue in discussion, here is the beginning. The concept of rules is really adaptive and discretionary..

Working the meaning of fisheries compliance and the role that it has in terms of providing the guarantees the international agreements require, is the essence of what I will be doing here.

Again I'm lucky to be working with local counterparts I have know for long time, and that always help.

So yes... I just dived in under the big wave... everything that challenges me from this society is blinkering across my eyes, and I’m looking forwards to come out on the other side.