Fishermen of Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu and Karaikal in Puducherry have sought Indian government’s intervention to retrieve their fishing vessels impounded by Lankan authorities.
The fishermen complained that more than 50 vessels worth crores of rupees are impounded by the Sri Lankan Navy and coastal authorities on charges of crossing International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
M.S. Antonio Joseph, a fisherman from Ramanathapuram told IANS, “Mechanised fishing boats are our source of revenue and a group of fishermen from the shores of India venture into the sea for days to get a good catch and earn livelihood. Of late, life has become miserable for fishermen as we are being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy as well as sea pirates. The line demarcating the two is very thin and we can’t recognise it.”
He said that most of the time fishermen cross the IMBL inadvertently. The mechanised boats with outboard engines are of huge costs, Joseph said.
The Sri Lankan Navy lets off the Indian fishermen after they serve the sentence but boats are impounded and left to be destroyed without maintenance, Joseph claimed.
Antonio Joseph said that the Tamil Nadu government must take up the matter with the Union government to retrieve the boats from Sri Lanka.
The fishermen cited examples of Sri Lankan authorities giving away their boats to local fishermen who submerge their vessels as well as remove their outboard engines.
Ranganathan, a fishing boat owner from Karaikal, told IANS that his fishing boat is left to the mercy of Sri Lankan authorities as it was in their custody since the fishermen including himself were arrested and jailed in Lanka for crossing the IMBL.
The fishermen have also said that there were instances wherein the fishing boats that were seized and impounded are sold off without proper notice to the owners.
The fishermen associations of coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are planning to meet the Chief Ministers Of the respective states M. K. Stalin and N. Rangasamy and urge them to take up the matter with Union External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar for further action.
M. Muniyandi, a fisherman from Pudukottai, told IANS that the fishermen will have no other option but to conduct a series of agitations in coastal areas to get justice. He said that the lives of an entire coastal region go haywire when a fishing boat is impounded as it means bread and butter to many fishermen and their families.