KOCHI: As the Lankan forces entered the Tamil-Tiger strongholds in northern Lanka scattering away the rebels, Kerala’s marine security agencies fear a large number of suspected LTTE cadres have infiltrated the Indian shore via trawlers to discreetly engage themselves as workers in fishing trawlers off Kochi coast.
Senior officials at the Coastal Base Station in Fort Kochi responsible in patrolling the Indian waters up to 22 nautical miles, said they had come across Indian trawlers with some of them, including women, speaking a Tamil dialect similar to that spoken in Sri Lanka.
“Recently, we have spotted more such workers being employed in the trawlers off Kochi coast,” marine security sources said. “Often they fail to produce documents to prove their identity.” The officials said the owners of the trawlers employ them without checking their antecedents as these labourers come cheap.
Security sources said that currently it is not mandatory for the trawler workers in Kerala to have any government-issued identity cards. There are no proper instructions from the authorities on detaining the suspects for questioning. As a result, the suspects are let off without further enquiries. On the other hand, security agencies in states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have adopted stringent measures to monitor activities of the fishermen.
Kerala Marine Enforcement Department officials said the Home Department had convened a meeting to discuss the issue and the Government has planned to introduce identity cards for the trawler workers. “But so far no such measures are put in place,” marine security officials said.“Introduction of ID cards will help the Coast Guard, Enforcement and the Marine Department to check infiltration,” the sources said.
“As fishing trawlers from several states come to dock in Kochi, the workers in one trawler would have no idea about their counterparts in other t r awlers, ” s a i d Ke r a l a Swathanthra Matysa Thozhilali Federation president Lal Koyiparambil.
This spoils the Government’s move to turn the fishermen into informers. According to sources, some deep-sea fishing trawlers go beyond 600 nautical miles and there is no system to check the departure and arrival of these vessels.
Indian Coast Guard DIG B K Loshali said they have intensified patrolling to check any infiltration in the wake of the Lankan conflict.
He said the Coast Guard has not received any fresh alerts though there had been reports on the infiltration via trawlers even before the battle in Sri Lanka.
“We have asked the State authorities to introduce e-cards for the workers and ensure they carried it on board,” said Loshali.