Talks between Indo-Sri Lankan fishermen may resume
The government of Tamil Nadu, anxious to resolve the long-standing conflict in Palk Bay, has been asked by the Foreign Office to submit a list of likely participants from the state’s fishing community and tentative dates for the proposed talks between its fishermen and that of the Northern Province in Sri Lanka.
“We will send our response soon,” government sources said. Additionally, in response to another state government request for a meeting of the Joint India-Sri Lanka (JWG) Fisheries Working Group, the ministry about a week ago informed the first that he had recently discussed the issue with neighboring countries.
The proposed talks are important against the backdrop of the arrest of 55 fishermen in Tamil Nadu and the seizure of eight trawlers by the Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday. Rameswaram fishermen staged a protest on Monday to demand the release of the arrested members.
While the last round of talks at fishermen’s level took place in New Delhi in November 2016, the JWG met in December 2020 via virtual mode. Between 2010 and 2016, several series of meetings between representatives of fishermen from the two countries took place.
The joint working group has held four meetings since December 2016. In September 2020, at the virtual bilateral summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to “continue their engagement to resolve fishermen’s issues through regular consultations and bilateral channels. . “
During the five to six months, the state government had followed up with the Center in both the fisherman-level talks and the JWG meeting, the sources said. The impact of the pandemic is said to have prevented the group from holding a conventional meeting.
As for accelerating the pace of implementation of the Deep Sea Fisheries Program, which was launched in July 2017 with a view to resolving the Palk Bay dispute and improving the livelihoods of fishermen, the state government urged the Center to increase the unit cost of ships from 80 lakh to 1.2 crore, the figure mentioned in the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana.
So far, the construction of 42 boats has been completed under this program. Work on 43 more is underway. In total, work orders were issued to 105 beneficiaries. A sum of approximately 31 crore was given to the beneficiaries. Funded by the Union and the state governments with the participation of beneficiaries, the program initially envisaged making 2,000 vessels available in three years to state fishermen and encouraged them to abandon bottom trawling.
Emphasizing that the cost factor is a serious problem for fishermen, an expert in the field of fisheries suggests that a state government agency be responsible for purchasing ocean-going vessels which can, in turn, be used. hired from fishermen, who use bottom trawlers. Fishermen may be advised to form organizations on the model of cooperative societies or groups of agricultural producers.