Despite various efforts by the Centre, 538 Indian fishermen continue to languish in the jails of three neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
This has yet again brought to the fore the complexities involved in the process of releasing the fishermen straying into territorial waters of the neighbours and an effective means to refrain them.
According to the government’s own data, 464 Indian fishermen are in Pakistani custody but the government of Pakistan admits to the presence of only 303 Indian fishermen in their jails.
An estimated 823 Indian fishing boats are also in Pakistan’s custody. The country had released 172 Indian fishermen early this year. However, despite the move, the number of jailed fishermen has gone up which often becomes an issue between the two governments in terms of ascertaining their nationality and the process to get them released.
Pakistan repatriated 57 boats in March 2015 to India but efforts to make steady progress on the issue have failed to yield much return.
The Sri Lankan government has walked the extra mile on releasing Indian fishermen in recent times. Since January 2014, 927 Indian fishermen were released. But 37 Indian fishermen and 25 fishing vessels are still in Lankan custody. Indian officials admit that the efforts to find a permanent solution to the issue between the two countries are not making the desired progress.
For instance, bottom trawling is banned in Lanka and Colombo complains that Indian fishermen use, what they term harmful technique, in their waters too. The Centre is yet to take effective steps to persuade the Tamil Nadu government on being more proactive in addressing the issue.
Since October 2014, 212 Indian fishermen were released by Bangladesh but there are still 37 Indian fishermen in the jails of Bangladesh.