KOCHI: It has been three months since Oceanic, a trawler boat, collided with a tanker vessel and sunk into the depths of the Arabian Sea with 14 fishermen, off Kochi coast. Two crew members were rescued and the bodies of five others were recovered by rescue workers. However, families of the seven missing fishermen are in deep despair. They have lost hopes of performing the last rites on the bodies of their loved ones. The loss of the sole breadwinners has pushed these families into penury. The hopes of getting a compensation from the government are dimming as the fishermen are natives of Tamil Nadu and they worked in Kerala.
The leaders of fishermen blame the navy for the plight of the families. To receive compensation from the government the bodies of the fishermen need to be recovered from the sea. However, the Navy abandoned the search operations a week after the mishap, saying that they have no expertise in recovering bodies from deep sea. According to the navy, the sunken boat was located by their under-sea scanning equipment. However, the boat and bodies could not be lifted as the sea was 75-m deep.
"The navy has not been reliable in rescue operations both during the Ockhi disaster and the mid-sea collision on August 7. There has been a serious lapse on the part of the navy rescue team. As the focus shifted towards the floods that unleashed destruction across the state, the navy abandoned the search for the missing fishermen," said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi state president Charles George.
The relatives of the fishermen, whose bodies are recovered, will get Rs 10 lakh from the state government and another Rs 10 lakh from the insurance scheme. But the families of the missing fishermen are running from pillar to post for compensation.
"We discussed the matter with minister Mercykutty Amma on Sunday and she as assured to take up the matter with the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister will write to Tamil Nadu government urging to help the families," he said.
"We have given multiple representations to the government seeking intervention to help the families of missing fishermen. As the bodies have not been recovered there are difficulties in providing compensation. Among the missing people, six are from Tamil Nadu and one is from West Bengal," said P V Sivan, owner of the ill-fated boat Oceanic.
Fishermen leaders point out that it is difficult to fight the case for compensation against M V Desh Sakthi, the ship owned by Shipping Corporation of India, as the boat has not been lifted. The police had arrested Captain of the ship B S Ahluwalia, Second Officer Nand Kishore Garu, and seaman Rajkumar in connection with the mid-sea collision. They have been released on bail.