Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday ordered of Rs 1 lakh financial assistance to each of the families of the 16 fishermen from the State who have been imprisoned in Iran. Announcing the aid, Jayalalithaa pointed out that she had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take steps to help secure the release of the fishermen by paying the fine levied on them by the Iranian court.
The fishermen, who hail from Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam and Kanyakumari districts, had been arrested by Iranian authorities after they strayed into Iranian waters while working on contract for a Saudi Arabian employer. An Iranian court had sentenced them to six months in prison and ordered them to pay a fine of $5,750.
Jayalalithaa recalled the letter she had written to the prime minister, urging him to take steps to secure the fishermen’s release, by having the Indian embassy in Iran pay the fine on behalf of the fishermen. She had also pointed out that the fishermen had been unable to contact the embassy and had not received legal assistance.
Given the circumstances and taking the poverty of the families of the fishermen, Jayalalithaa ordered financial assistance to the families from the Chief Minister’s General Relief Fund.
Meanwhile, in Nagercoil, family members of the jailed fishermen hailed Jayalalithaa’s gesture.
“After hearing about my brother’s arrest our mother fell ill and now she is bedridden. The CM’s assistance will be a great relief for our family,” said Sahaya Rani, sister of jailed fishermen Jeya Seelan from Colachel.
“This is the first time any government has granted relief to fishermen’s families for their being jailed abroad. We welcome it, said Fr Churchill, general secretary of the South Asian Fishermen Fraternity (SAFF).
Antonyammal, mother of jailed fishermen Antony Suresh, had tears of joy after learning about the CM’s aid. Abandoned by her husband, she was eking out a living on the earnings of Suresh. “My elder son and my daughter have been married off. Suresh is the sole breadwinner in our family,” she said.