CHENNAI: Braving the inclement weather, two ships of the Indian Coast Guard sailed to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) to help repatriate 126 Indian fishermen who were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy for fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
The ships sailed to two different places in Kankesanthurai and Talaimannar after getting approval from the Ministry of External Affairs, said a Coast Guard spokesman.
ICG Offshore Patrol vessel Sagar took over 78 released Indian fishermen from Sri Lankan Navy vessels at the IMBL off Kankesanthurai and brought them to Karaikal, while ICG ship Rajkamal took over 48 released Indian fishermen from Sri Lankan Navy vessels off Talaimannar and brought them to Rameswaram.
Of the 126 fishermen released by Sri Lankan, 78 fishermen belonging to Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, and Ramanathapuram reached Karaikal while the remaining 48 belonging to Ramanathapuram and Thoothukudi districts.
Sources said subsequent to diplomatic efforts pursued by the Indian and Tamil Nadu governments, the Sri Lankan government in a goodwill gesture on November 9 ordered the release of the 126 fishermen. Because of the choppy sea due to the presence of deep depression over south west Bay of Bengal their repatriation was delayed spoiling their chance to spend Deepavali with their family. The sea returned to normalcy on Friday enabling Indian Coast Guard personnel and Sri Lankan navy to repatriate the released fishermen from as many as three prisons of Sri Lanka.
Around 78 fishermen including 49 from Nagapattinam, 16 from Pudukkottai, and 13 from Ramanathapuram fishing hamlets released by Point Pedro and Kayts courts in the island nation were handed over by the Sri Lankan navy to Indian Coast Guard personnel on board the patrol vessel ICGS Sagar at the IMBL on Friday morning.
Subsequently, the fishermen after being ferried to Karaikal were handed over by the commandant SNM Patnaik of Karaikal Coast Guard station to the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister K A Jayapal, Tamil Nadu fisheries department commissioner Dr Beela Rajesh, and Nagapattinam collector S Palanisamy. The fishermen after being provided with a package each containing relief materials were sent back to their respective fishing hamlets.
Upon their release, the fishermen and representatives of the community here in Nagapattinam urged the governments to retrieve as many as 57 fishing vessels confiscated by the island nation in the past couple of months.