The Tamil Nadu government expressed apprehensions over a Sri Lankan fisheries bill, saying it was aimed at fishermen from its state and urged the Centre to take up the matter with Colombo to ensure that it is not implemented.
The Tamil Nadu government expressed apprehensions over a Sri Lankan fisheries bill, saying it was aimed at fishermen from its state and urged the Centre to take up the matter with Colombo to ensure that it is not implemented. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister K Palaniswami referred to Sri Lanka’s latest Foreign Fishing Vessels Bill, pointing out it allowed for longer periods of incarceration and huge penalties. The bill has been approved by the Sri Lankan Cabinet and that it provides for stringent penalties against fishing in the sovereign territory of that country, he said. It is widely reported in the media that the Bill was introduced in the Lankan Parliament on January 24, he said. Its provisions were aimed at Indian Fishing Trawlers from the state, the Tamil Nadu fishermen, as well as their fishing gear, while they are peacefully fishing in their traditional fishing waters of Palk Bay, Palaniswami said.
“This new Bill has provisions to incarcerate our fishermen for longer periods of time and impose huge penalties, which run upto few crores of Indian rupees,” he said. The life and livelihood of fishermen from Tamil Nadu who fish in the traditional waters of Palk Bay, will then be left at the Lankan government’s mercy, the letter said. This move has created widespread resentment and panic among the state fishermen, especially among those fishing in the Palk Bay, he said. Palaniswami described the move by the Lankan government as “an extremely unfortunate development.” It came at a time when the ministers of India and Sri Lanka had met twice and the Joint Working Group on Fisheries thrice, to work out a permanent solution to resolve the long pending “sensitive livelihood issue,” he said. This “unilateral” move by the Lankan government has far reaching implications on the livelihood proposition of fishermen from the state and will definitely hamper proactive steps taken by the state government and diplomatic efforts by the Centre, he said.
He said the Palk Bay “is the historic and traditional fishing area of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu.” Their historical rights were “simply signed away, as part of the ill-advised Indo-Sri Lankan agreements of 1974 and 1976, which also unilaterally ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, without having any foresight or concern for the plight of our innocent fishermen.” The stand of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the state government was that the agreements should be “abrogated,” as it “created an imaginary International Maritime Boundary Line and ceded the Katchatheevu islet along with the potential traditional fishing grounds of our fishermen to Sri Lanka.” Since the issue of ceding of Katchatheevu was sub-judice as the matter is pending before the Supreme Court, it would be fitting for the Centre to register its strong disapproval of such a move, “affecting the livelihood of our fishermen in the Palk Bay, at the highest diplomatic level,” he said. Palaniswami urged Modi to direct the External Affairs Ministry and the Indian Mission in Sri Lanka to “immediately and effectively” respond by registering strong protest against the new legislation and ensure that the Act was not implemented. He also sought steps for securing the release of 108 fishermen and 165 fishing boats from Lankan custody, including eight fishermen, who were apprehended today, and their two mechanised fishing vessels.