Indian fishermen in desperate situation, says Edappadi Palaniswamy

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Sharp escalation in harassment by Sri Lankan navy.

Chennai: Contending that Indian fishermen have been placed in a desperate situation owing to Sri Lanka’s continued harassment, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end their ordeal and also take steps to ensure the release of the arrested 32 Indian fishermen.

“This sharp escalation in harassment and apprehension of our fishermen, especially at a time when they are getting ready for the much awaited Katchatheevu festival, is causing considerable hardship and mental agony to the poor, innocent fishermen,” he said in a letter to Mr. Modi on Sunday.

A fisherman, who was about to be apprehended by the Lankan authorities, “attempted to swallow broken glass out of fear and mental stress, thereby endangering his life,” he pointed out.

The fishermen peacefully go about their activities in the waters which they have enjoyed the customary rights to fish for several centuries.

“Tamil Nadu’s fishermen appear to have been left at the total mercy of the Sri Lankan Navy, which picks them up at random, incarcerates them for months together and fails to return their boats for years together, despite commitments made during talks,” the letter read.

The Chief Minister also called for the retrieval of the Katchatheevu islet, ceded by India to Sri Lanka in 1974.

Citing examples, including in South-East Asia, he said countries arrived at workable diplomatic arrangements under which, two sides continue to fish without any harassment and interference.

“There is no reason why a similar arrangement cannot be put in place between India and Sri Lanka,” Mr. Palaniswami suggested. Noting that currently, there were 85 fishermen and 128 fishing boats in Lankan custody, he urged Mr. Modi to direct the External Affairs Ministry officials concerned to take concrete action through diplomatic channels to secure their release.

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