Fishermen leaders in Tamil Nadu have expressed dismay over the failure of the third meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) and the ministerial meeting that followed to work out a time frame for the release of fishermen and more than 130 trawlers detained in Sri Lanka and to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay, The Hindu newspaper reported.
The leaders regretted that the meetings held in New Delhi on October 13 and 14 to discuss fishermen issues and the release of the apprehended fishermen and their trawlers detained in Sri Lanka for more than a year ended without arriving at any tangible decisions.
“It is very unfortunate that the Lankan side ended the meetings after making a vague statement that it would take up the issues relating to the release of fishermen and trawlers at an appropriate forum,” fishermen leader P Sesu Raja said.
After the recent release of fishermen and 42 trawlers, impounded by the Lankan navy in April 2015, the fishermen had high hopes that the JWG, set up to address their issues, and the ministerial level meeting would work out a time frame for the release of fishermen and their trawlers but the meetings turned out to be a formality, he rued.
It was also unfortunate that the Sri Lankan side, while acknowledging India’s recent initiatives to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay, had not changed its stance that it would continue to prevent illegal fishing in Lankan waters and arrest Indian fishermen who trespassed.
“We had high hopes that India will prevail upon the Lankan side and secure the release of fishermen and boats and give time to phase out bottom trawling in the Palk Bay only to be disappointed,” the leaders said.
After the meetings, the Indian and Sri Lankan sides agreed that a lasting solution to the fishermen issue should be found at the earliest but made no serious efforts towards the direction, they felt. The Lankan side only seemed to be crushing the livelihood of Indian fishermen, they alleged.
Pointing that they were making sincere efforts to switch over to deep sea fishing, the leaders said a lasting solution could be found only if the fishermen were given one or two years to phase out bottom trawling in the Pak Bay.
Stating that there was no assurance from the Lankan side, they said only if the trawlers were released, those fishermen could opt for tuna long liners.