Twenty-year-old Poongodi makes a living by segregating fish at the Kasimedu fishing harbour. She earns Rs. 20 a day and supports her two young children. Poongodi is one of the many women in Kasimedu, who are still hopeful of their husbands' safe return after they went into the sea for fishing several months ago.

In the last two years, 15 fishermen who ventured into the sea from the Kasimedu fishing harbour have gone missing without a trace. All the missing cases have occurred during non-cyclone seasons, which is why their families still live in hope.

Frantic efforts by them to locate the missing with the help State government officials and the Indian Coast Guard have so far proved futile. These families, mainly residing at Singaravelar Nagar and Nagoorar Thottam in North Chennai, are now struggling to make both the ends meet. They say that the State Fisheries Department has been silent on the issue and not providing even the minimum grants given to the families of missing fishermen.

“My 16-year-old son Manivannan is missing after he went into the sea last October with three others. I ran to many people for help, including government authorities, but in vain. He was the breadwinner of our family,” says Manivannan's mother Desam, with tears in her eyes. Her husband is bedridden and she supports him and her 10-year-old son by selling fish at a market in Tondiarpet.

Poongodi's husband Suresh (21) who went missing along with the teenager had apparently sold his house to purchase fishing net. “My husband is yet to return and I am struggling with two children. I have not got any grant from the Fisheries Department, even after I personally sent petitions to the office of the Assistant Director of Fisheries in Royapuram many times,” says Poongodi, whose three-year-old son is ailing and requires surgery.

Septuagenarian Victoria's son Nelson (32) of Singaravelar Nagar went missing in the sea and her plight is the same as that of Poongodi, Desam and a few more women from Nagoorar Thottam.

Officials of the Directorate of Fisheries in Teynampet told The Hindu that the grant to the eligible families of lost fishermen has been despatched to the Assistant Director's office in Royapuram and affected families who are members of the co-operative society could contact the office for further assistance. But many families of the affected claim that they haven't received it.

According to K. Bharati, president of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association in Chennai, the government's grant of Rs. 50 a day is provided to each fisherman's family through the State Fisheries Department after 30 days of filing an FIR on the fisherman missing in the sea. The grant is applicable only to fishermen who are members of Fishermen Co-operative Society.

“Many affected families here who are members of the society have been constantly contacting the officials at the office of the Assistant Director of Fisheries in Royapuram but there are absolutely no signs of hope,” he says.

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Petlee PeterJune 28, 2012