Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Thursday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up the issue of apprehension of the state’s fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy at the “highest diplomatic level,” besides ensuring their safety and security.
Referring to the latest incident, where 10 fishermen from Pudukottai district were arrested by the Lankan Navy last night, Panneerselvam in his letter to Modi said, it has taken place at a time when the state’s fishermen were hopeful that a “pragmatic and permanent solution” would emerge after the Ministerial meeting was held recently.
“A firm, clear, unequivocal and unambiguous message should be sent out by the Government of India to Sri Lanka to ensure that these trends are reversed,” he added.
Tamil Nadu strongly reiterates the need to restore the traditional fishing rights of fishermen in Palk Bay by “annulling the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1974” as it has been challenged in Supreme Court, he said.
Pointing out that 116 boats seized by the island nation were yet to be released, the Chief Minister said, the strategy of not releasing the boats caused great frustration among the state’s fishermen.
Recalling the memorandum submitted by him to Modi last month seeking a financial package of Rs 1,650 crore including a recurring grant of Rs 10 crore so that the socio-economic status of fishermen in coastal districts of Palk Bay area be “improved”, he said, it is requested that concerned Ministries may be directed to sanction the package at the earliest.
Panneerselvam requested Modi to secure the immediate release of 61 fishermen and 116 fishing boats without any delay.
Only on January two, Sri Lanka had agreed to release 51 fishermen in its custody and consider returning a large number of fishing boats in its custody.
This was decided during a high-level ministerial level meeting of Sri Lanka and India held in Colombo on the vexed issue of fishermen.
Indian and Lankan Coast Guard had discussed various measures for the release and repatriation of arrested fishermen among other areas of cooperation in the maritime security scenario.