TIRUNELVELI: The Kanyakumari fishermen's demand for annexing all coastal hamlets of Kanyakumari district with the nearby Kerala state was not just a sudden outburst on the failure of the Tamil Nadu government to react to the emergency situation during the Ockhi cyclone tragedy.
Many fisher-folks say even the attitude of the general public in the rest of Tamil Nadu towards the plight of the Kanyakumari fishermen is equally not appreciable.
Even the media flash did not fall on them to bring to light their plight, complained many Kanyakumari fishermen, who too is are of the opinion that their problems on high seas in international waters have not been adequately addressed politically. “Not many of the state level leaders care to voice in support of our fishermen indulge in deep sea fishing in international waters as they raise their voice for the Tamil Nadu fishermen when attacked or detained by the Sri Lankan navy,” regrets Shelton of Thoothur coastal hamlet.
It is to be noted that around 10,000 Kanyakumari fishermen are engaged in fishing activities outside the country especially in the Arabian countries and Iran. “We have been preferred by many of the fishing companies in foreign countries for our efficiency in fishing techniques,” said fisherman Blesson, who was detained by the Iranian coast guard on October last year.
After a strenuous struggle by the fishermen activists, the Indian embassy officials intervened to rescue Blesson and 16 others from an Iran prison. Speaking to DC on the repeated detention of Kanyakumari fishermen in Persian Gulf, P Justin Antony, president of Fishermen Development Trust, quoting a study done by Centre for Indian Migrant studies (CIMS) said, more than 50 per cent of the Indian fishermen working onboard fishing vessels in the gulf cooperation council countries belong to Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu.
“Though we take pride in this that the efficiency of our fishermen has created an international demand we cannot turn blind eye towards the bad working employment there,” said Justin Antony, whose efforts for fishermen's development has gained UNESCO appreciation.
Expressing his disappointment over the reluctance of the Tamil Nadu political parties' indifference towards the problems faced by the Kanyakumari fishermen onboard the fishing vessels abroad, the fishermen leader said that during the last three years around 518 fishermen from the three southern districts arrested by the gulf countries on charges of cross border fishing have been released on the actions taken by organisations like Fishermen Development Trust of India. It took up the issue with the Indian Foreign affairs ministry.
Among the 518 fishermen arrested, 110 were taken into custody by Iran, 33 by Oman, 229 were detained by Dego Gracia, 3 by UAE 63 by Saudi Arabia, and 26 by Bangladesh. As many as 15 fishermen from Kanyakumari too were detained by Lakshadweep islands, which is an integral part of India. The fishermen activist too added that still 21 fishermen from the southern districts are in Iran jail and he has been persuading the Indian government to take steps to retrieve those fishermen from Iran prison.
The fishermen activists in Kanyakumari district too demand an international identity card for those working onboard foreign fishing vessels, so as to protect themselves from foreign Navy, even if they strayed across the maritime boundary due to strong winds or changing water currents.
The rescued fishermen from foreign prisons like Antony Blesson of Thoothur too complained that their sponsors in Arabian countries too did not give the fishermen the salary agreed. To overcome this problem, it has been suggested that the Indian government through its embassy should coordinate with the embassies of the countries where the fishermen are working and monitor whether the Indian fishermen working abroad be credited their monthly salaries by opening bank accounts as per the labour laws of the respective countries.
However, to find an amicable solution to the problems faced by the fishermen onboard the foreign fishing vessels, the Protector General of Emigrants issued a special advisory to all recruitment agencies in India not to process any application from potential migrants who are looking for jobs on fishing vessels in countries like Iran. “This, however, is very atrocious on the part of the Foreign Affairs ministry,” said the fishermen....