Hundreds of fishermen in Kurigram and Lalmonirhat are going through hard times as fish stocks in the Brahmaputra and Teesta rivers have drastically decreased over the years.
With their traditional livelihood failing to provide for their families, many fishermen have taken loans at high interest from local moneylenders.
"Usually, a group of four or five of us fishermen goes together to the river. After trying for hours, we get around five kilograms of fish," said 46-year-old Sadhan Chandra Das of Majhipara village in Kurigram's Chilmari upazila.
"The situation worsens from December to June as the water level falls. We have no work during this period," said Sadhan, who fishes in the Brahmaputra.
Bishnu Chandra Das, a 56-year-old fisherman from the same village, said, "We are unable to provide for our families with the money we earn from fishing. So, we have to take loans from the Mohajon (moneylender) with high interest."
"We have to repair our fishing boats and nets at our own expense. So you can easily understand our misery," he added.
Hit hard by poverty, many have already left their ancestral profession and others are planning to leave.
"Many fishermen in our village have already left and are now working as day labourers, some pull rickshaws, and others work in garment factories," said 55-year-old Surendra Nath Das, a fisherman from Daspara village under Kurigram's Rowmari upazila.
"We are deprived of our rights even if the policy is "Jal Jar Khal Tar" [those who have the net have the canal]. It is only on paper. We are not allowed to catch fish in the government canals as politically influential people have occupied those," said Surendra.
"We are instead forced to work as labourers for them."
"Following in my grandfather and father's footsteps, I used to catch fish in the Teesta. But it became difficult for me to maintain my family with the little income from fishing. So, I left the profession," said 38-year-old Nikhil Chandra Das of Daspara village in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila. He now pulls rickshaw.
"Around 10,000 families depend on the Brahmaputra and Teesta rivers in Kurigram and Lalmonirhat. Many are frustrated with their ancestral profession," said 70-year-old Narayan Chandra Das of Majhipara under Kurigram's Ulipur upazila.
"The fishermen spend most of their income on repairing and buying fishing nets. That is why they cannot repair their houses while many don't even have their own house," he added.
Lalmonirhat Sadar Upazila Fisheries Officer Hasmat Ali told The Daily Star that the canals are not under the control of fishermen. These have gone into the possession of non-fishermen with political influence.
"In this case, we can do nothing for the fishermen. But we are trying," Hasmat added.