CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government will give `5 lakh compensation to the Tamil fishermen who were released by Iranian authorities after being detained in boats in an island for five-and-a-half- months without adequate food and water, said Minister for Fisheries, Finance, Personnel and Administrative Reforms D Jayakumar.
Jayakumar, who received the 15 fishermen — seven from Kanniyakumari, seven from Tirunelveli and one from Ramanathapuram — at Chennai airport late on Thursday said efforts were being made to release the remaining Tamil fishermen.
A top fisheries official said as per government data, there are 20 more Tamil fishermen in Iranian custody. “Five more have already been released and others will be released soon,” said Commissioner of Fisheries Beela Rajesh, who was also present.
When pointed out that 37 fishermen from Tamil Nadu had been taken into custody by Iranian authorities, she said as per the State records, there were only 35 fishermen.
Verghese, one of the freed fishermen, recounted the ordeal. “We were not kept in prison. Rather they took us to Kish Island and detained us in a boat,” he said.
“They did not have to feed us. We were kept in three boats. Even water was not served. The only hope during the five-and-a-half-month stay was the Indian expatriates in Iran.They provided us with food and water or else we would not have survived,” said Verghese, the captain of one of the vessels.
The fishermen were arrested on October 22, 2016, for allegedly straying into Iran’s territorial waters while on their way to Sharjah from Bahrain.
They were handed their “freedom order” on March 17, after an Iranian court ruled that the case against the men had “been lifted” and that they were free to leave “if there are no other offences against them”.
Their release was delayed because of technical and bureaucratic reasons.
Josephine Valarmathi from the National Domestic Workers Movement in Chennai said that it was time the State government thought of setting up a separate ministry to tackle such cases. “There has been an increase in people in the State migrating to other countries for livelihood and a separate ministry has to be created on the lines similar to those in Kerala.”
She also wanted the state to create a separate welfare board for workers working abroad.
The Fisheries Minister said that the Tamil Nadu government would be studying the Kerala model before implementing it in the State.