Udupi: Four-and-a-half months after the fishing boat, Suvarna Tribhuja, left Malpe Harbour on December 13, 2018 and went missing off the Goa coast two days later, Indian Navy officials accompanied by a team of fishermen have found its wreck off the Malvan coast in Maharashtra.
Going by the evidence, the boat appears to have sunk due to a collision and it is now suspected that it may have been hit by INS Kochi of the Indian Navy , which was in the vicinity.
The issue is fast taking on political colour with former minister, Pramod Madhwaraj accusing the BJP of trying to hush up the deaths of the fishermen till the completion of the elections and demanding a judicial inquiry into the incident.
While making no mention of the collision, an Indian Navy spokesman said in a tweet that it had located the wreck of the fishing vessel, Suvarna Tribhuja, 33 km WSW off the coast of Malvan.
“The wreck was found by INS Nireekshak on May 1 through side scan sonar operations and confirmed today (May 2) by Naval divers,” he said. It’s believed there are unlikely to be any survivors.
A team of 10, including Udupi MLA, Raghupathi Bhat, Fisheries College professor, Capt Jayaprakash Mendon, members of the missing fishermen’s families and other fishermen’s leaders had ventured into the sea on INS Nireekshak past midnight on Sunday to search for Suvarna Tribhuja.
“For two days we did not find anything. However, on May 1 we saw a part of a boat and later that night came across the wreck. The next day the Navy divers went into the sea and took photographs and videos of the wreck which had the name Suvarna Tribhuja on it,” Mr Bhat said.
Although no body of the seven fishermen was found, considering the state of the boat, and the depth of the sea where it was found, it was unlikely that they were still alive, according to him.
“We suspect that INS Kochi of the Indian Navy , which was in the vicinity, collided with Suvarna Tribhuja. We want the Navy to investigate and if INS Kochi is involved, the Union government must provide the families of the dead fishermen compensation,” he demanded.
The team, which had the permission of the Defence Minister to conduct the search, completed it on Thursday night and returned to the Karwar Naval base Friday morning.
Meanwhile, releasing photographs of the damaged lower hull of INS Kochi that allegedly collided with Suvarna Tribhuja, Mr Pramod Madhwaraj said in a statement, "I am releasing the photo of INS Kochi which hit Suvarna Tribhuja and caused the death of the fishermen. On behalf of the fishermen and their families I demand that the Prime Minister immediately order a judicial inquiry into the incident which took place due to the irresponsibility of the Navy. Although the fishermen had received information about this before the election, BJP leaders and the Defense Ministry hushed it up for political gain. If the BJP has the courage, the government should order a judicial inquiry by a retired Supreme Court judge into the incident.”
Mr Madhwaraj also told reporters that he would write to the President, the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, and Karnataka on the issue and if they did not act, he would take legal action himself.
He claimed there was enough evidence to show that the Naval ship had collided with the fishing boat. “A letter by Navy officials says the bottom of INS Kochi was damaged by some hard object on December 16, the day Suvarna Tribhuja went missing. The Navy should have checked if it was the same boat that had damaged their ship,” he argued.
Objecting to his comments, Mr Bhat accused Mr Madhwaraj of politicising the issue. Asked for his response, he said, “This is a sensitive issue. But it is sad that he is politicising it when we are trying to help the familes of the fishermen get their due compensation. Pramod should not politicise this and hamper our efforts.”...