NAGAPATTINAM: A day after the diplomats of Indian and Sri Lankan governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide 150 fishing boats and other fishing gears to Mullaitivu fishermen for promoting the livelihood fisher folks in northern province, the fishermen associations here have welcomed the diplomatic move and have opined that such amicable measures are need of the hour to address the decades old fishermen dispute. However, with as much as 99 fishermen and about 93 fishing boats being held under the custody of island nation, a section of fishermen representatives expressed their dissatisfaction by recording that Indian government could have signed the MoU after ensuring the repatriation of fishermen jailed since January 2016, and boats confiscated in past a year.
According to sources, as per the MoU signed at Colombo on Thursday between the Indian High Commissioner Y K Sinha and his counterpart W M M R Adikari, secretary, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, it is said that the Indian government would supply 150 fishing boats and subsequent fishing gears to support the fishermen in civil war affected Mullativu district in Northern Province of island nation. As it has been reported that about 300 beneficiaries in Mullaitivu would be benefited through the `10 crore worth aid, fishermen here have welcomed the amicable move of Indian government to support the financially downtrodden fisher folks in Mullaitivu. “It was us who had initially proposed the Indian government to support the livelihood needs of northern province fishermen in Sri Lanka who are mostly Tamils. The MoU signed between two nations would certainly strengthen amicable environment for addressing the fishing dispute, and such diplomatic measures are essential for releasing our detained fishermen and seized fishing boats from Sri Lanka.” M Ilango, chairperson of National Fishworkers' Forum told Express.
Meanwhile, though a section of fishermen welcomed the aid assured to be provided by the Indian government to Sri Lankan fishermen, the fishermen representatives stated that Indian government could have signed the MoU after ensuring the repatriation of detained fishermen and fishing boats from Lanka. “We full-heartedly appreciate the intentions of Indian government in helping our counterparts in Sri Lankan coast. But the Union government could have persuaded their Sri Lankan counterparts to release the 99 fishermen from Sri Lankan prisons before assuring the financial aid. If such friendly environment prevails between the two nations, why the month long delay persists in repatriating the fishermen apprehended by Sri Lankan navy?” questioned, R M P Rajendra Nattar, Keechankuppam fishermen representative near Nagapattinam.
Expressing their demand to equally support the deep sea fishing needs of coastal fishermen in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the fishermen representatives have urged the Indian government to repatriate 99 detained fishermen and 93 confiscated fishing boats from Lanka at the earliest.