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Fishermen call off strike over Lanka

2014 Jun 17

Rameswaram fishermen, who launched a strike on June 9, to protest against the Sri Lankan Navy arresting them and seizing their trawlers on charges of poaching when they set out for fishing in the Palk Strait, decided to call off the strike and resume fishing today, The Hindu newspaper reported.

After Union Minister and BJP State president Pon Radhakrishnan said the Centre was taking steps to find a permanent solution to the problem, leaders of 11 fishermen associations decided to call off the strike after an informal discussion in Rameswaram yesterday.

A delegation of fishermen leaders from Rameswaram, Pamban and Jagadapattinam in Pudukkottai district met Mr. Radhakrishnan in Chennai on Saturday and presented a memorandum, detailing the problems the fishermen faced in the backdrop of the continued arrest by the Sri Lankan Navy and underscoring the need to find a lasting solution to protect their livelihood.

Secretary of the coastal mechanised boat fishermen association P. Sesu Raja, who was part of the 15-member delegation, said the leaders urged the Minister to ensure peaceful fishing till a permanent solution was found and prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to restrain its Navy from arresting the fishermen and confiscating their trawlers.

“Though the Minister has not given any categorical assurance, we have decided to call off the strike as a majority of the fishermen could not afford to continue the strike,” he said.

As fish traders and moneylenders stopped advancing money, the fishermen were fighting to make both ends meet, he lamented.

After the 45-day ban period, the fishermen just had four fishing days in the new season, which began on June 1, when the Sri Lankan Navy arrested 33 fishermen and 82 fishermen on June 7 and 8. Though all of them were released, their trawlers were detained, they pointed out.

Tracing the history of their problem, the fishermen leaders made it clear in the memorandum that they should be allowed to fish in their traditional waters in the Palk Strait after crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line for sustained livelihood.

They suggested that the Centre dig a channel off Danushkodi and provide enhanced subsidy for tuna long liner to wean away a section of the fishermen to deep-sea fishing so as to phase out trawling in the Palm Bay.

The government should also build a modern fishing harbour with cold storage and help the fishermen get a better price for the catch.

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