KARAIKAL, NEW DELHI: Seventy seven fishermen who were set free by the Sri Lanka government arrived here late on Thursday. The fishermen were received by Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, Textiles and Handlooms Minister O S Manian and Nagapattinam Collector S Sureshkumar.
The fishermen were sent to their respective native places, with Fisheries Department making arrangements in this regard.
All the 77 were arrested over a period of time for allegedly violating the International Maritime Boundary Line. Of them, 19 were from Nagapattinam and six were from Karaikal and the rest 52 from coastal districts of Ramanathapuram, Pudukkottai and Tirunelveli districts. The Tamil Nadu had arranged vehicles to send the fishermen home.
However, another 15 fishermen are still in Sri Lankan prisons as their release formalities are yet to be completed. Sources said a few of them have been imprisoned for smuggling drugs, which could make their release a bit complicated.
251 released so far: Swaraj
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday told Rajya Sabha that India has secured the release of 251 fishermen and 42 fishing boats from Sri Lanka so far this year.
Three rounds of meetings have been held between Swaraj and Fisheries Ministers of India and Sri Lanka from November 2016 to May this year.
As many as 15 fishermen and 117 fishing boats were under the custody of Sri Lankan authorities until July 31 this year, she said in a written reply.
The government has decided to promote deep sea fishing for improving the lives of fishermen and a scheme with a budget of Rs 1,500 crore with a duration of three years has been launched in this regard. Of the Rs 250 crore allocated for the ongoing fiscal, Rs 200 crore has already been released to Tamil Nadu, she said while responding to questions during the Zero Hour.
On bottom trawling ban, the minister said the practice is environmentally damaging and is illegal even in India. Now even Tamil Nadu government has stopped granting new licences for bottom trawlers.