DMK Member of Parliament and leader of the Parliamentary party, T.R. Baalu, along with a delegation comprising fishermen association leaders from Rameswaram and Ramanathapuram MP K. Nawaz Kani, met with the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, in New Delhi on Tuesday, October 31, 2023.
Submitting a memorandum to the Minister, Mr. Baalu urged the Centre to work towards the early release of 67 T.N. fishermen who have been apprehended by Sri Lankan authorities between October 14 and 28, and for the release of their 10 mechanised boats. The delegation also insisted on the government’s finding a permanent solution to this issue.
Speaking to The Hindu,fishermen association leader P. Jesu Raja said that the delegation conveyed its apprehensions to the Union Minister. “We feel very insecure about continuing with fishing on the Palk Bay these days. The Sri Lankan Navy authorities arrest us under false charges. Our livelihood is under a huge threat. The Indian government should understand our plight and find a permanent solution, which is the only thing that can give us peace,” he said.
Since 2018, as many as 133 boats seized by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel have not been returned to their owners in Tamil Nadu. “We have requested that either compensation be given or that the boats be retrieved, depending on their condition. The Minister assured us that he would discuss this with the Indian High Commission officials in Sri Lanka,“ Mr. Raja said.
The delegation also pointed out that though a Sri Lankan court, six months ago, had ordered the release of nine mechanised boats that had been impounded by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel at the beginning of this year, the fishermen had been unable to take possession of them, due to procedural delays from the Indian government.
The Minister, the fishermen leader said, explained the measures taken by the Union government to have the arrested fishermen released, through the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin had told media persons in Pasumpon village in Ramanathapuram district on Monday, October 30, 2023 that Mr. Baalu would take a fishermen delegation to New Delhi.
Based on the letters written by the CM to the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister, the fishermen leaders are hoping that their counterparts will soon be released, and thanked CM Stalin for his swift action in this regard.