A week ago, the Government of Srilanka has come out with an unanimously passed amendment to their earlier act of 1979 regarding protection of their sea wealth, according to which boats which would transgress the borders of their territory would be imposed hefty fines in proportion to the length of the transgressing boats.
According to the amended provisions of the act , 15 to 24 meter long boats will have to pay rs 21 lakhs : 25 to 45 meter long boats , rs 4 crore and 14 lakhs; 45 to 75 meter boats rs 5 crores and 21 lakhs and those boats which are longer than 75 meters , rs 7 crores and 25 lakhs if they cross the borders.
In the custody of Srilanka there are 127 Tamilnadu boats, and 120 Indian fishermen from gulf of Mannar and palk straits. The boats, it is reported , due to lack of care and maintenance are getting rot and a few fishermen are suffering from different illness in the prison including small pox.
The draconian amendment is definitely detrimental to the interests of fishing by our fishermen in the south eastern coast of India who are waylaid by Srilankan Navy , even when they cast their nets with due deference to the 1974 , agreement and 1976 letters between Srilanka and India.
The much crushed fishermen of Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, and Ramnad , loudly cry against the looming disaster, and invoke the central and state Governments,in televisions and press to take steps to delete the implementation of this hawkish amendment. The Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, has also written to the central government on this. But what the Central Government had done on this is not yet known. This amendment also places a firm cad on the occasional discussions the fishermen and government of either side had over the past couple of years.
Not all the political parties in Tamil Nadu have aired support to the fishermen. Except a few press, others have turned a blind eye. It appears the fishermen may have to wallow in their own misery.
One remedy seems to lie in seizing the opportunity that the Government offer. The offer of providing substantial amount of subsidy for fishermen , for deep sea fishing industry and for long boats so that they could move away from indo -Srilanka sea and make much more money .
But my casual talks with fishermen of this area and all along the coramandal coast, and palk straits reveal to me that they are not ready for long halts in the sea and hesitate to seize the offer. Will the educated lot tell their kins and friends the advantages in accepting the offer of the Government , as otherwise we will lose the sea also from our hold , in the near future.
by A.X Alexander