Second batch expected to reach Mandapam soon

The first batch of 24 fishermen released by a Sri Lankan court after their month-long incarceration had a harrowing experience as they arrived at the Rameswaram fishing jetty in the wee hours of Friday and were forced to sleep in their boats.

Escorted by the Sri Lankan navy, the hapless fishermen left Thalaimannar in their five trawlers, including a faulty one, at 2 pm on Thursday and reached the fishing jetty around 3 30 am on Friday after a nearly three-hour long halt at sea off Mandapam to complete formalities by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

“It was the most arduous 13-hour long journey as we had to tow a faulty boat all the way from Thalaimannar and spend nearly three hours on the high seas off Mandapam,” S.Chithiraipandi (34), one of the five fishermen who managed to walk to the shore after anchoring their trawler in the jetty, said.

Four fishermen who spoke to the media were unanimous that they faced no problems in the prison. Except the food, they had no problem, they said adding Indian High commission officials and Sri Lankan Tamil Minister Senthil Thondaman visited them in prison and got them dress and eatables.

They felt they could have been handed over to the fisheries department officials on the high seas off Rameswaram as was done in the past, instead of being taken to Mandapam. “Had the Coast guard handed over us near Rameswaram, we would have reached home on Thursday night itself,” they said.

The arrival of fishermen which is normally marked by scenes of joy and excitement were conspicuously absent this time as none from the families or the fishing community, except a lone boat owner turned up at the jetty. The fishing jetty was plunged in darkness and wore a deserted look, when television journalists and press photographers reached the jetty around 2 30 a.m.

As more than 700 trawlers were anchored in the jetty, the fishermen had to anchor their trawlers outside the jetty. As they could not come to the shore without the help of country boats, many of them chose to sleep in the boats. The four fishermen, however, managed to come to the shore with the help of a country boat sent by M.S.Innasi, the boat owner who came to receive his son in the faulty boat. EOM

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