Can India really interfere and ask Sri Lanka to take back a piece of legislation?

 Sri Lankas ban on bottom trawling Tamil fishermen to start indefinite strikeImage: Fishermen in Rameswaram
news Protests Sunday, July 09, 2017 - 19:07

In what has come as a major jolt to fishermen in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka on Thursday banned the much criticized practice of bottom-trawling in their waters.

With their livelihood set to take a big hit, fishermen from the coastal district of Rameswaram have announced an indefinite strike from July 14.

This comes after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi Palanisamy wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking to exert pressure on Sri Lanka against the amendment passed on the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Amendment) Bill.

Sri Lanka has imposed a ban on bottom trawling and imposed a fine of approximately Rs 20,000 on violators with two years imprisonment.

Fishermen from TN often enter Sri Lanka’s territorial water and engage in bottom trawling.

“Central government is lethargic and they are not mindful about the needs of the fishermen, so the Sri Lankan government is imposing such laws. Under the bill, Indian fishermen will be fined, our boats can easily be ceased by Sri Lanka, and this bill would adversely affect the livelihood of the fishermen. We want the Indian government to strongly disapprove the Bill,” said Bose, state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Meenavar Sangam.

The Bill was first introduced as a private member’s bill by Jaffna politician and Tamil National Alliance’s parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran.

Though, Indian fishermen are protesting against the Bill, Sri Lankan fishermen see it as reclamation of their rights. Meera Srinivasan writes in The Hindu that Sri Lankan fishermen who had been denied access to the sea by both LTTE and armed forces for many decades, find bottom-trawling a huge challenge.

On Sunday, three fishermen who hail from Pudukottai district were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly fishing in the island nation’s waters. They were arrested in Karainagar in northern Sri Lanka. “In total, 142 boats have been ceased and retained by Sri Lanka for now. We are also protesting against the arrests of these fishermen. We want them to be released by the Sri Lankan government,” said Bose.

The DMK too has reacted sharply to the bill. DMK working President MK Stalin said in a statement, "The black legislation brought with the intention of finishing off the vocation of Tamil Nadu fishermen will not only affect this state but also impede India's fish export policies.”

Chief Minister Edapaddi Palanisamy had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday demanding that the Indian government register protest with Sri Lanka over the alleged passage of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Amendment) Bill and also ensure that the rights of Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay are defended.

He added that 50 Tamil Nadu fishermen and 143 fishing boats belonging to Tamil Nadu fishermen are in Lankan custody since 2015. 

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