Eleven prisoners from India lodged at the Welikada prison here could be just one step away from being transferred to Indian prisons, if the Tamil Nadu government acts swiftly.

Until 2010, the prisoners, all from Tamil Nadu, nurtured no hope of meeting their families ever since they were apprehended here and sentenced to life imprisonment for possessing narcotics. As per Sri Lankan law, persons caught with narcotic substances are given a life sentence and convicts usually serve the entire life term in jail.

However, the India-Sri Lanka bilateral Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons signed on June 9, 2010, gave them reason for optimism. While it in no way reduces their sentence — the 11 prisoners will still serve their terms ranging from five to 15 years — the agreement enables a transfer to a prison in India, and family members of the prisoners would then be able to meet them.

The 2010 agreement made such a transfer possible for as many as 20 prisoners and they were sent to prisons in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in March 2013. The remaining 11 prisoners, however, are now pinning their hopes on officials of Tamil Nadu police, for they would have to come, complete procedural formalities and take the prisoners along with them.

The process warrants coordinated effort from the Indian High Commission here and the State governments concerned. It is learnt that the Indian mission here, on its part, has completed all the paper work, which included verifying the identity of the prisoners and making arrangement for their transfer.

Now, it is for Tamil Nadu police to respond, for prisons is a State subject, sources said.