The proposal to resume ferry services between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar and Tuticorin and Colombo, as agreed by India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday in New Delhi, has received good response from people of the region and trade bodies.
The Dhanushkodi-Talaimmanar service, which began in 1914 during the British rule, was stopped after the 1964 cyclone that destroyed Dhanushkodi town.
Survivors of the cyclone, which claimed the lives of 115 persons travelling in a train between Pamban and Dhanushkodi on December 23, 1964 recall that Dhanushkodi was a prosperous tourist and pilgrimage centre till the fateful day. Those days, India and Sri Lanka had extensive bilateral cooperation. Since Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was just 18 miles away, there were many weekly ferry services between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar, transporting traders, merchants, tea estate workers, fishermen, tourists, and goods across the sea.
Southern Railway ran a Boat Mail from Madras Egmore (now Chennai Egmore) to Dhanushkodi to connect steamers ‘Irvin' and ‘Goschen' that were later renamed ‘Mullai' and ‘Marutham'. Travellers were given tickets from Chennai to Colombo and taken by steamers to Talaimannar for the onward rail journey to Colombo.
“There were hotels, textile shops, jewellery shops, dharmashalas, hospital, government offices to serve the need of pilgrims and travellers. People of both countries used to cross over frequently on many fronts, including for trade, pilgrimage and others. I want to see Danushkodi regain the glorious past before my end. I am extremely happy to learn that ferry service will be resumed soon,” 88-year-old V. ‘Neechal' Kali, one of the very few survivors of the 1964 cyclone, told TheHindu.
Mr. Kali, who lives in Dhanushkodi, said in the 46 years after the cyclone he had heard many similar proposals but nothing happened.
He hoped the new proposal would become a reality.
Though the proposals were mooted in 2003, they could not materialise owing to stiff opposition in the State. It was felt that the services would pose security problems for Tamil Nadu in view of the civil war in Sri Lanka.
It is expected that the latest proposal would not face much opposition from the security point of view, as hostilities have come to an end in the island nation. A section of trade and commerce bodies, which welcomed the proposal, said it would be a big boost for districts such as Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Tuticorin and Virudhunagar.