Tamil Nadu has protested the “escalation” in apprehension of its fishermen by Sri Lanka and said the Centre did “not seem to put adequate pressure” on Colombo regarding the matter, the Press Trust of India reported.
In a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister K Palaniswami referred to the arrest of 32 Indian fishermen by the Lankan authorities in the last few days and said these incidents were causing hardship and mental agony to the fishermen community.
“This sharp escalation in harassment and apprehension of our fishermen, especially at a time when they are getting ready for the much awaited Katchatheevu festival, is causing considerable hardship and mental agony to the poor, innocent fishermen,” the letter read.
A fisherman, who was about to be apprehended by the Lankan authorities, “attempted to swallow broken glass out of fear and mental stress, thereby endangering his life”, Palaniswami said, adding that this highlighted the “desperate situation in which the Indian fishermen have been placed”.
Tamil Nadu has been repeatedly urging the Centre to sanction a comprehensive project for conversion of mechanised trawlers into deep sea long-liners and create the infrastructure to resolve the issue, he said.
On the Centre’s advice, the first batch of fishermen has also been trained in deep sea long-liner fishing operations, the chief minister noted.
“But, despite our repeated requests, neither has the Rs-1,650 crore package been approved by Government of India nor does there seem to be adequate pressure built up on Sri Lanka to desist from day-to-day harassment and arrest of our fishermen,” Palaniswami wrote in the letter to Modi.
The fishermen peacefully go about their activities “in the waters in which they have enjoyed the customary rights to fish for several centuries”, he added.
“Tamil Nadu’s fishermen appear to have been left at the total mercy of the Sri Lankan Navy, which picks them up at random, incarcerates them for months together and fails to return their boats for years together, despite commitments made during talks,” the letter read.
The chief minister also called for the retrieval of the Katchatheevu islet, ceded by India to Sri Lanka in 1974.
Citing examples, including in South-East Asia, he said countries have arrived at workable diplomatic arrangements in which, two sides continue to fish without any harassment and interference.
“There is no reason why a similar arrangement cannot be put in place between India and Sri Lanka,” added Palaniswami.
Noting that currently, there were 85 fishermen and 128 fishing boats in Lankan custody, he urged Modi to direct the External Affairs Ministry officials concerned to take concrete action through diplomatic channels to secure their release. (Colombo Gazette)