India, Sri Lanka agree to release fishermen and vessels

The process of releasing the fishermen and vessels would start from Thursday, he said, adding he would be directing his ministry and the Attorney General’s department in this regard.

‘About 160 Sri Lankan fishermen and four vessels are to be released from India. On the part of Sri Lanka, 236 (Indian) fishermen and 90 boats are to be released,’ he told an Indian news agency after meeting union minister for agriculture Sharad Pawar here.

He said a meeting between the fishermen of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu would held as per the request of Indian government. Asked about the key issues likely to figure in the meeting, Senaratne said his country would raise the issue of bottom trawling by Indian fishermen. ‘About 1,200 boats are entering into Sri Lankan waters every day and doing bottom trawling, which is banned in Sri Lanka,’ he added.

The Sri Lankan fisheries minister alleged 45,800 boats from India have entered Sri Lankan waters for bottom trawling, which, according to him was a very bad method of fishing.

Bottom trawling relates to casting of fishing net so deep in the sea that when the net is picked up, it tends to bring with it besides fish other forms of marine life.

He denied the charge the Sri Lankan Navy was attacking Indian fishermen. ‘Your (Indian) own navy commander, your own Director General of Coast Guard have informed the court that it was not so,’ he told reporters.

Moreover, a six-member committee, comprising three Indian and Sri Lankan officials, has been constituted to resolve the problems relating to fishing between the two countries. The first meeting of the committee would be convened here on Thursday.

While the Indian team would be headed by the Agriculture Secretary, the Sri Lankan side would be led by the Director General of Fisheries.

Senaratne also met his External Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has said the two countries have decided to set up an institutional arrangement to look into the fishermen apprehended by both sides.

‘We have decided to set up an institutional arrangement to look into the fishermen arrested on both sides and to expedite the matter,’ Pawar said. ‘Hopefully from next week, we will see some development on both sides in this regard. If this does not work. we will soon take some other actions,’ he added.

MP writes to Centre on fisherman’s death in Pak jail

Vadodara: A Rajya Sabha MP has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting to take up with the Pakistan government the issue of bringing back the body of a Gujarat fisherman, who died in the neighbouring country’s jail last month. According to the information with the state government, Bhikha Lakha Shiyal (35), a fisherman from Garal village in Junagadh district, died on 19 December, 2013 in a Karachi jail. The cause of his death was not yet known. In his letter to the PM on Tuesday, Parimal Nathwani, an Independent MP in Rajya Sabha, said the body of Shiyal was still in Pakistan and is yet to be brought to the country even after 27 days of his death, which has shocked his two children and family.
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