A pall of gloom hangs over 15 fishing villages near Pulicat. Though the ban on deep sea fishing has been lifted, the fishermen have decided not to go to sea until 161 persons belonging to their community are released from prison.
The arrested men, who work as contract labourers at a private port in nearby Kattupalli, were arrested by police on charges including manhandling and abusing of other employees and management staff. They are currently in Vellore prison.
Sources said that the labourers had sat on an indefinite fast inside the port demanding better wages and jobs. They were employed as house keeping staff and gardeners since they are unskilled workers.
On the other hand, the heads of fishermen’s panchayats of villages such as Arangankuppam and Koonankuppam are unhappy with the labourers as the former had not been consulted before their fast.
Jalandran Chettiyar of Arangamkuppam said that the community was disturbed by the actions of the men. “We have approached everyone who could possibly help. But nobody has been able to secure their release. We will now wait for their release and then decide the next course of action. We will take action against them if they are in the wrong,” he said. Karunakaran, president of Light House Kuppam Panchayat, said that 25 men from Arangamkuppam village were among those in prison.
“The village is presently gearing up for the annual festival of the Chinna Amman Ponni Amman temple. This year, the festivities were to be especially grand as it has been 10 years since we did something on this scale. But without the men, their families see no happiness in the celebrations. Others too are worried and really not interested in the celebrations,” he said.