November 20, 2015
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate steps to secure the release of 14 fishermen of Ramanathapuram district and 50 fishing boats from Sri Lankan custody.
In a letter to Modi today, she also sought the early return of the four fishermen who had drifted to the Sri Lankan shores due to engine failure on November 8.
“14 fishermen with their three mechanised fishing boats who set out for fishing from the Rameswaram and Mandapam fishing bases in Ramanathapuram District, have been apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy in the late hours of 18.11.2015, and they have been taken to Kankesanthurai, Sri Lanka. I am also informed that on 8.11.2015, 4 fishermen in a motorised country boat who had drifted and got stranded on the Sri Lankan shores due to engine failure are yet to be sent back to India” Jayalalithaa pointed out in her letter.
“You would recall that I have written to you on several occasions bringing to your notice the repeated instances of abduction and apprehension of innocent fishermen belonging to the coastal Districts of Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan Navy while pursuing their peaceful avocation of fishing in their traditional fishing waters of the Palk Bay”, she said, adding that the incident of November 18 was yet another unfortunate one.
She said she was also constrained to point out that already, 47 fishing boats along with fishing gear which are essential for fishermen to earn their livelihood, were still in the custody of Sri Lankan authorities and had not yet been released. The impounded boats that were perilously berthed, faced the imminent threat of irreparable damage due to long periods of disuse and the onset of the monsoon. It will condemn the boats and equipment to ruin and the poor fishermen who are currently suffering a temporary loss of livelihood, would be subjected to a huge permanent loss.
“My Government firmly believes that the unconstitutional Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements of 1974 and 1976 and the unilateral ceding of the Katchatheevu islet is the root cause of the problem. The historic rights of the fishermen from Tamil Nadu to their peaceful avocation of fishing in the traditional waters of the Palk Bay are being consistently infringed upon by the Sri Lankan Navy and our fishermen are put to untold hardship”, Jayalalithaa pointed out in her letter to the PM.
She also reminded Modi that “the Comprehensive Special Package for deep sea fishing and infrastructure at a cost of Rs.1520 crores and the recurring grant of Rs.10 crores per annum for maintenance dredging, which I had requested as part of the Memoranda presented to you on 3.6.2014 and 7.8.2015 are still awaiting the approval of the Government of India”.
This livelihood issue of thousands of fisherfolk needed his personal intervention, she said adding that the Government of India should not allow this issue to fester further.