They wanted the State and Central government officials to accompany them in case State approves visit

A delegation of Rameswaram fishermen met Minister for Fisheries and Chief Secretary at the Secretariat in Chennai on Wednesday and discussed among other things, their visit to Colombo to hold talks with their Lankan counterparts and find a solution to the fishing problem in the Palk Bay.

A five-member delegation, accompanied by U. Arulanandam, President of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) and S. Venugopal, President of the Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Welfare Association held talks with Minister K.A. Jayapal, Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishnan, Fisheries Secretary S. Vijayakumar and Fisheries Director C. Munianathan, sources here said.

The fishermen, who had met Sri Lankan Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa in Delhi on July 5, told the officials about the Minister’s suggestion that Indian fishermen could hold talks with their Lankan counterparts and sort out the issues.

They wanted the State and Central government officials to accompany them in the event of the State government approving their visit.

They said the Indian fishermen had three rounds of talks with the Lankan fishermen in 2004, 2010 and 2011, but could not find a lasting solution in the absence of a mechanism to implement the agreements reached between the two parties.

The delegation comprised N.J. Bose, P. Sesu Raja, P. Devadoss, S .Emaret and R. John Kettar, all from Rameswaram.

The Chief Secretary assured the delegation that she would take up the matter with the Chief Minister and do the needful, sources said. Pointing out that there has been a spurt in the incidents of arrest of the fishermen by the Lankan navy in the recent past, the delegation said the fishermen could no longer fish peacefully in the Palk bay, which was their traditional fishing area.

If the problem persisted, some fishermen could be diverted for deep sea fishing if the government dug up a channel off Danushkodi while another section could be weaned away for tuna fishing if the government provided boats with 100 per cent subsidy in the first phase, they suggested.

The delegation said the Rameswaram fishing jetty has become too crowded with more than 700 mechanised boats and it could be decongested if the government bought boats under the buy-back policy.

It also urged the government to double the quota of subsidised diesel from the existing 1,500 litres per month, the sources said.

Special Correspondent writes from Colombo:

A Sri Lankan magistrate court on Wednesday extended the remand of 34 fishermen from Tamil Nadu – arrested north of Point Pedro on July 30 – till August 21.

The case of 31 other fishermen, arrested the same day near Trincomalee was also heard by another court on Wednesday, but the outcome is not known yet.

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