Reiterating the Centre’s stand that Tamil Nadu fishermen should not cross the international maritime boundary line (IMBL), external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday advised a fishermen delegation that met her in New Delhi not to trespass into Sri Lankan waters and invite trouble. She suggested they to take to deep-sea fishing.
Sushma also told the delegation that the Indian government would not be able to help in getting the fishermen released if they got arrested frequently by the Sri Lankan navy for crossing the IMBL and using trawlers which had been banned by the Island nation. The Centre did not give any assurance on the fishermen’s demand that they be permitted to cross the IMBL for at least 83 days in a year.
The firm stand taken by the NDA government on the fishermen issue comes after several assurances of a solution by BJP leaders and even condoning of their frequent trespasses in the past. The fishermen representatives told TOI that they were upset with the minister’s response to the long-standing issue of their frequent mid-sea confrontations with the Sri Lankan navy.
“We have been taken to Delhi by BJP leaders to find a solution for our problems. This suggestion is not much of a help. We are upset,” said Ramanathapuram district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Mechanized Boat Fishermen Association B Jesuraja. The fishermen representatives informed the minister that they could not do fishing without crossing the IMBL as the catch in Indian waters was poor.
“The minister advised us to go in for deep-sea fishing. She also asked us to look for an alternate profession. We don’t know anything but fishing. We urged the government to give us subsidy so that we could look at an alternate livelihood,” Jesuraja said. The fishermen demanded that the Centre sanction at least Rs 60 lakh as subsidy for buying bigger boats and other equipment required for deep-sea fishing.
They sought the external affairs ministry’s intervention in the release of 25 fishermen and 37 boats from Sri Lanka. A total of 22 fishermen representatives from Rameswaram, Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Pudukottai and Thanjavur met Sushma Swaraj. They were accompanied by TN BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan, Union minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan, senior leader L Ganesan and other leaders.
Tamil Nadu BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan said the minister listened to grievances of the fishermen and assured them a better livelihood. “The Union minister said the Centre would try to work out an agreement with the Sri Lanka government for permitting Indian fishermen with traditional boats to cross the IMBL,” she said. More than 100 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who were taken to New Delhi by the BJP, had taken part in a seminar organized by the party on Tuesday. (TOI)