Sri Lankan court asks India to pay Rs 1 crore each for release of TN fishermen

About 12 Indian fishermen from Rameswaram were recently arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for fishing in their waters.
Fishing boats in the sea
Fishing boats in the sea
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Indian fishermen in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu are shocked to hear about a Sri Lankan court fixing Rs 1 crore each as the bail amount to release the arrested fishermen, said a top member of the All Mechanised Boat Association. About 12 Indian fishermen from Rameswaram were recently arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for fishing in their waters.

"We are shocked to hear that a court has fixed Rs 1 crore per fisherman as the bail amount for release. How can a fisherman raise Rs 1 crore? If he had such an amount he wouldn't be in this profession," P Jesuraj, President, All Mechanised Boat Association, told IANS.

The Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) party headed by actor-cum-politician Kamal Haasan in a message wondered within what boundary the Sri Lankan court has fixed Rs 1 crore as the bail amount for release of a poor fisherman. According to Jesuraj, about 85 Indian boats are still under the custody of Sri Lanka.

Reacting to the news, Devadoss, president of Ramashwaram Fisherman’s Association said, “India and Sri Lanka have strong bilateral ties, we see. And yet, there cannot be any other country than Sri Lanka in the world that treats fishermen who are desperate and struggling for basic survival, so atrociously. Is the Indian government just watching as a spectator? Our fishermen are caught by Sri Lanka, even at the same time as when  India’s External Affairs Minister is there on a diplomatic visit. The bail amount is like rubbing salt on an open wound. The yearly fishing ban is coming up, diesel prices are increasing costs of fishing, now this.” 

He also highlighted that one of the main reasons for Tamil Nadu’s fishermen getting caught is because the island of Katachaitheevu is currently in Sri Lankan control. This is where Tamil Nadu’s fishermen in districts like Rameshwaram go, across the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL), if they want to come back with a catch. They say they are forced to, since Indian waters are depleted of fish. “We fishermen are the first line of defence for the country, we monitor the waters for anything untoward and alert the authorities. And the Indian government does nothing when such a bail amount is imposed?”

Advocate Saravanan, spokesperson of the DMK told TNM, “This extortionary amount can only mean that the Sri Lankan government hopes the bail amount cannot be paid. They should take into consideration how much the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin is moving heaven and earth to ensure that relief measures are being sent to Sri Lanka, particularly, the northern part of Sri Lanka. Such an unimaginable amount of money as bail will do no good. I don’t know what has prompted them to seek this.” He also added that the Tamil Nadu government will use diplomatic channels to help resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, in continuing influx of citizens fleeing the economic crisis-torn Sri Lanka, a family of four, including two children, from the island nation landed in Rameswaram early on Friday.

The family arrived from Mannar in Sri Lanka in a boat and got dropped off at Arichalmunai near Dhanushkodi in the wee hours of Friday, officials said.

The marine police picked them up for an initial enquiry and they would be later lodged at the Mandapam refugee camp.

Earlier, in different instances, 16 people had fled Sri Lanka in the wake of the economic crisis and landed in Rameswaram through the sea route and are put up at the Mandapam camp.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the UK in 1948.

India had recently announced a USD 1 billion line of credit to its neighbour as part of its financial assistance to the country to deal with the economic crisis following a previous USD 500 billion line of credit in February. The Indian High Commission had on Wednesday announced the arrival of two more shipments of fuel to Colombo under the Indian credit line. Rice shipments to Colombo have also been taken up by India.

On Thursday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin had told the Union government that the state was ready to ship essential commodities like rice and life saving drugs to Sri Lanka, considering the welfare of Tamils and sought permission for its distribution there through the Indian High Commission.

With agency inputs

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