The sorry plight of the ill - equipped Sri Lankans going to sea
Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
The Indian Ocean like other seas is bountiful and its
resources benefit many. But for the Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen, fishing in
the deep blue waters of the Palk Strait, from time to time, it also amounts to
fishing in troubled waters.
While both countries handle the issue of fishermen
and their livelihood” through diplomatic channels, for the fisher folk, it is
far more direct and person to person.
cleaned and are carefully keeping 17 new fishing nets belonging to Indian
fishermen. We will hand them over to them when they request. We don’t want to
take revenge or get into any ugly confrontation with any one of them. They too
are fishermen, like us. The issue should be solved amicably, through the
understanding fishermen have with fishermen, not through complicated channels.
We are a community that respects humanity” says Kanthasamy Rajachandran,
President of Ambaal Fishermen’s Co-operative Society in Kaarainagar in Jaffna.
17 new fishing nets belonging to Indian
fishermen, which got entangled to Sri Lankan fishermen's boats are cleaned and
carefully kept under lock and key in a store in Kaarainagar
The Tamil fishermen living in the fishing hamlet,
Kaarainagar, sit in together as a group, pensively looking at an empty sea, in
the scorching midday sun. The village has for generations been a fishing
village, surrounded by Palmyrah trees, symbolic of the northern identity.
share their plight
give a signal to the Indian fishermen when they approach us in trawlers. We
communicate that they should not come close, which will damage our fishing
nets.But, they turn deaf ears to our plea, and often come charging in their
high-powered trawlers, cutting our nets and disappear in the sea immediately
neither harm them nor their fishing nets. We as Tamil fishermen from Sri
Lanka’s North equally respect them as our Tamil brethren across the strait.We also
don’t want to cause any harm to them or to their nets. After all, we all are
fishermen and human beings” explains a visibly moved
fisherman Mahalingam Lingarajan.
These fishermen from Kaarainagar neither own
trawlers nor big boats. They alos don’t have big fishing nets to cast. What
they possess are modest manually cast nets that can bring them minimum catch. Their
fishing nets are smaller and fragile, as their battered sea – dependent economy.
They don’t know of deep sea fishing, and don’t possess the necessary equipment,
and certainly do not know any other profession.
have claimed Sri Lankan Rupees 350,000/= as compensation for their damaged
nets. Their nets had got entangled with Indian trawlers and are in unusable
conditions. Their claims are fair, and we will compensate the Sri Lankan
fishermen” said Yuvani Fernando Arulanantham, Tamil Nadu based fisher folk
activist and President of “Niraparaathi”, Alliance for Release of Innocent
Fishermen (ARIF) while speaking to Ceylon
Today over the telephone.
The Sri Lankan fishermen at sea feel threatened by
modern technology, and man power- the twin power of Indian fisher folk.
fishermen are very well - equipped with modern mobile phones and GPRS system in
place. We have a very few basic mobile phones which will work only in specific
areas. Therefore, we are challenged by the Indian fishermen when they come
closer to us. We have to always bear the loss of damaged fishing nets. And they
(Indian fishermen) come in big numbers – with at least five fishermen on board
- whereas we have only a maximum of two fishermen in ours” says Rajaratnam
Kamalavasan, who had just brought freshly caught live crabs, which would be
sent to Colombo immediately from the shores of Kaarainagar.
brings a catch of crabs
Most of these fishermen vow not to make their
children fishermen, as they don’t want them also to go through the same life
struggle, and be dependent on an unpredictable sea. Instead, they want their
children to be educated and embrace other professions.
displaced a few times. Like my fellow fishermen, I am struggling to rebuild my
livelihood. I don’t know anything other than fishing” says Velupillai
Krishnaswamy while showing a recently damaged fishing net.
Two meetings between the Sri Lankan and Indian
fishermen were held in 2010 and 2011, but they was no conclusive outcome. Yet
another meeting is scheduled for June according to Yuvani Fernando
Arulanantham, who says “it is a particularly
sensitive issue that should be carefully dealt with”.
The fishermen in Kaarainagar claim that it is costly
to mend a damaged net or purchase a new one. It costs more than Rs.1,000/= to
mend a net, and it also takes time to mend it to perfection.
Meanwhile, 30 Indian fishermen out of 56 who were
arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) in April this year, were released
recently. These 56 Indian fishermen have crossed the International Maritime
Boundary Line (IMBL), breaching the Sri Lankan waters. The remaining 26 Indian fishermen are likely to be released
|On Ceylon Today of 12th May 2013|
COURTESY: CEYLON TODAY