Tamil Nadu government on Monday sought the Centre's intervention for the release of 14 Indian fishermen arrested by the Lankan navy on Sunday, and raised the issue of financial package for the community.
Sunday's arrest showed Lankan authorities had resorted to "familiar tactics of harassing and intimidating fishermen from Tamil Nadu while they fish in their traditional fishing waters in the Palk Bay," chief minister O Panneerselvam said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Thanking Modi for his 'timely intervention' for release of five Indian fishermen on death row in Lanka for alleged drug trafficking after the state government took it up with him, Panneerselvam drew the Prime Minister's attention to the problems of fishermen in the state.
Panneerselvam said his predecessor Jayalalithaa had taken several steps towards diversification of the avocation of some 10 lakh fisherfolk dependent on fishing as their only source of livelihood.
"A two pronged approach is necessary at this juncture to solve this chronic problem. One is sanction of the financial package of Rs 1520 crore and a recurring grant of Rs 10 crore per annum for maintenance dredging, that our leader (Jayalalithaa) had requested from the central government, which would go a long way in improving the socio economic status of the fishermen," he said.
The second was the abrogation of the 1974 and 1976 agreements ceding Katchatheevu islet to Sri Lanka, 'as well as restoration of the traditional and historical fishing grounds of the Palk Bay to the Tamil Nadu fishermen," he said while recalling Jayalalithaa challenging it in the Supreme Court on "extremely valid and legal grounds."
He said denying the Indian fishermen the right to peaceful fishing in their traditional waters of Palk Bay was causing 'considerable angst' among the community in the state.
The chief minister sought Modi's personal intervention to immediately resolve the long pending issue by retrieving Katchatheevu and restoring the traditional fishing rights.
He also urged Modi to instruct the external affairs ministry to immediately take up the issue with Colombo and ensure the release of 38 fishermen, including the 14 arrested on Sunday, besides securing 78 boats currently in Lankan custody.