Ahead of the proposed meet between fishermen of India and Sri Lanka here on January 20, the All India Traditional Fishermen’s Association has urged the Centre to focus on implementing the requests already made by Tamil Nadu fishermen during earlier bilateral parleys.
“Lanka must adhere to Geneva Convention and ensure that there is no threat to the lives, limbs and boats of our fishermen. This is crucial and it was made clear in earlier talks as well,” S.A. Mahesh, president, All India Traditional Fishermen’s Association told PTI in Chennai on Friday.
Mr. Mahesh, who participated in the talks between the fishermen of two countries in 2010 and 2011, said that certain key representations were made to the governments of India and Sri Lanka then.
Fishing for certain days of a week in mutually-accepted areas by fishermen belonging to both Lanka and India and restoring the traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu in Katchatheevu were important among them.
“What happened to these representations,” he asked, adding the proposed meeting should start from where it was left.
“Accusation of crossing the International boundary line is meaningless. It is a very narrow stretch. If you take the 12 nautical mile rule, our boundary could even stretch right into Sri Lanka. This should be resolved,” he said.
In regard to Lanka’s accusation of Tamil Nadu fishermen using banned nets, he said steps were afoot to phase it out completely.
“Tamil Nadu government is giving a subsidy of Rs. 30 lakh and an interest free loan of Rs. 30 lakh to take up ventures like tuna fishing and phase out trawl nets.”
Expressing apprehension that Centre and Lanka could “navigate talks” to suit their own “vested interests,” he said the impending general elections was a case in point.
K. Bharathi, president of the South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association, referring to the remark of visiting Sri Lanka Fisheries Minister Rajitha Harischandra Senaratne in Delhi that further action (on fishermen’s problem) would follow a 2008 proposal of India and Lanka’s acceptance of it, alleged that the proposed meeting was a “drama,” by the Centre.
“If both these governments have already decided, what are you going to do in this meeting?” he asked.
N.J. Bose, president of the Rameswaram Harbour Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, had a totally different take on the meeting.
He claimed that, “there is no word about the meeting still. We are not sure if it will happen at all.”
Sources in the State Fisheries Department indicated that representatives of fishermen from Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, Rameswaram and Karaikal (Puducherry region) had already been invited for the meeting.