Stalin calls for retrieving Katchatheevu

Addressing a fishers meeting in Ramanathapuram district on August 18, the CM said the DMK had fought against the gifting of Katchatheevu islet to Sri Lanka, and would continue to work towards its retrieval

August 18, 2023 03:43 pm | Updated August 19, 2023 01:55 am IST - RAMANATHAPURAM

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin addressing the fishermen’s conference in Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district on Friday, August 18, 2023

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin addressing the fishermen’s conference in Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district on Friday, August 18, 2023 | Photo Credit: BALACHANDAR L

Retrieving the Katchatheevu islet from Sri Lanka alone, would put a permanent end to the problems of fishermen in Tamil Nadu, said Chief Minister M. K. Stalin on Friday, August 18, 2023.

Speaking at a fishermen’s conference in Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district, the CM said it had become a routine affair for the Sri Lankan Navy personnel to attack, arrest and remand in judicial custody, T.N. fishermen, who went into the Palk Bay to fish, under charges of poaching.

On every occasion, Mr. Stalin said, he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take the initiative to intervene, upon which the fishermen had been brought out of jail. However, the Sri Lankan government had not released the impounded boats and fish nets that were essential to the livelihoods of the fishermen.

Though the Prime Minister had announced in 2014, in Kanniyakumari, that the BJP would retrieve Katchatheevu, this had not been done to date. Late External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had come to Ramanathapuram district to participate in a conference, ‘Kadal Thamarai’ prior to 2014, had also said the islet would be retrieved from the Sri Lankan government. In reality, nothing had been done to help benefit T.N. fishermen for all these years. On the contrary, the atrocities and humiliations suffered by fishermen continued, the CM said.

Mr. Stalin said that he hoped the Union government would now take this issue up with Sri Lanka and take steps to retrieve Katchatheevu. If not, the DMK would move the new government at the Centre after May 2024 [following the Lok Sabha elections], he claimed, indicating an end to BJP rule and of INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) leading the nation.

DMK has been ‘a saviour of fisherfolk’ claims CM

T.N. CM M.K. Stalin at the fishermen’s conference in Mandapam on Friday, August 18, 2023

T.N. CM M.K. Stalin at the fishermen’s conference in Mandapam on Friday, August 18, 2023 | Photo Credit: BALACHANDAR L

From time immemorial, the DMK party irrespective of whether it was in power or not, had been the saviour of the fishermen, Mr. Stalin said, adding that the party would continue to stand for the cause and welfare of fisherfolk.

Soon after Sri Lanka made claims to Katchatheevu in 1971, the DMK and its leader M. Karunanidhi strongly objected to this. The late leader (Karunanidhi) had even asked a professor of law to collect information that was released in December 1971 that did not find any merit to Sri Lanka’s claiming of the islet, and, in fact found that it belonged to India.

Subsequently, Karunanidhi, accompanied by then law minister S. Madhavan visited then Prime Minister Indra Gandhi and submitted a comprehensive memorandum about these findings and said that Katchatheevu belonged to India and that it should not be “gifted” to Sri Lanka. Mr. Stalin also said that the handing over of the islet to Sri Lanka was only an “agreement” and that there was no law enacted in Parliament in this regard. Hence, the Union government, which had made tall promise should be blamed now for giving fisherfolk in T.N. false hopes. “I am very clear that retrieval of Katchatheevu alone will permanently wipe the tears of the fishermen in this region. I will definitely initiate this and help this move see the light soon,” he added.

The CM further said that then DMK MPs had raised the issue in Parliament. The late Murasoli Maran had said that it would be apt to say that giving Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka would be more dangerous to Tamil Nadu than India. Then MP Era. Chezhian opposed the giving away of the islet and walked out of Parliament. These incidents are mentioned in the records, Mr. Stalin said.

Recalling the strong protests against the agreement on Katchatheevu, Mr. Stalin said that in 1974, the DMK had organised agitations. Then Chief Minister Karunanidhi had convened an all-party meeting. The AIADMK was the only party to walk out of this meeting. Apart from organising meetings across many districts in T.N. condemning the agreement, Mr. Karunanidhi, as CM, tabled a special resolution in the T.N. Legislative Assembly on August 21, 1974 against Katchatheevu being given to Sri Lanka.

When this was the reality, some people and parties in T.N. were attempting to spread misleading messages about DMK being a party to the gifting of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka. “In no way would the party go against the wishes and interests of the fishermen,” CM Stalin asserted amidst thunderous applause from the gathering.

Financial assistance to be enhanced

The CM announced that the T.N. government would spend ₹926.88 crore to benefit 2.77 lakh fisherfolk in the State. Among the welfare measure, he said that the most important one, which was also a promise made by the DMK prior to the polls, was that during the annual fishing ban period, the government would enhance the financial assistance given to fishers from ₹5,000 to ₹8,000. “I have kept my word today,” he said and added that pattas would be issued to over 5,000 fishermen, subsidies on kerosene and subsidies to country boat fishermen would be among the welfare measures implemented by the government.

T.N. Fisheries Minister Anitha R. Radhakrishnan, Ramanathapuram District Collector B. Vishnu Chandran, Additional Chief Secretary Mangat Ram Sharma, Ministers Durai Murugan, Raja Kannappan, MPs Kanimozhi and Nawaz Kani and MLAs Kadarbasha Muthuramalingam, S. Murugesan and R.M. Karu Manickam were among those who participated.

The CM also gave welfare assistance to beneficiaries on the occasion.

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