Considering the economic background of the 16 fishermen who were released from Iranian prisons, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday announced that the State government would provide a grant of Rs 4.8 crore toward buying new fishing boats and arrange another Rs 4.8 crore as bank loans, so that the fishermen could start a new life in their native places.
The Chief Minister, pointing out that a fishing boat costs Rs 60 lakh, said each of the 16 fishermen would get a grant of Rs 30 lakh, apart from which another Rs 30 lakh each would be provided as loan under a State government scheme. Besides, the CM also presented a cheque of Rs 1 lakh each to the fishermen as financial assistance. This is in addition to the Rs 1 lakh given to the fishermen’s families last month.
The 16 fishermen, who arrived here on Tuesday night, called on the Chief Minister at the Secretariat and profusely thanked her for making consistent efforts to secure their release from Iranian prisons.
The Chief Minister advised the fishermen to continue fishing in Tamil Nadu instead of going to foreign shores in search of employment; they were contract labourers in a Saudi-based company when Iranian authorities apprehended them. Jayalalithaa said she had been worried about their plight in a foreign country and explained what steps she took to get them freed at the earliest and provide financial assistance to all the families. Expressing happiness over their return, she wished them a bright future.
On July 28, she had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the plight of these fishermen and urged him to take urgent steps to ensure their release.
The 16 fishermen are from Kaarankadu, Mullimunai, Morpanai, Thirupalaikudi and Rochmanagar in Ramanathapuram district, Pazhaiyar village in Nagapattinam district, Colachel and Arogyapuram villages in Kanyakumari district. A private company in Saudi Arabia had engaged them as contract labourers on fishing boats. In the course of their fishing activities, they ventured into Iranian waters and were arrested in December 2012. Without access to legal aid, they were tried and convicted by an Iranian court to undergo six months imprisonment and slapped with a fine of $5,750 dollars each. Even after having served the term, for want of resources to pay the fine, these poor fishermen continued to languish in jail, until the Chief Minister came to their aid.