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Jayalalithaa to announce meeting between TN & Lanka fishers in Chennai

A crucial and much-awaited meeting between representatives of Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen will finally take place in Chennai soon. Sources said the state government would facilitate the meeting and chief minister J Jayalalithaa is likely to make an announcement about it in a day or two.

“The Centre has asked the state about a possible date for the meeting, the venue, the names of representatives of fishermen’s associations that will take part and other information and data. We have provided all the information,” a senior official told TOI. “The state government is ready to facilitate a meeting for the benefit of our fishermen,” he said.

On Monday, representatives of fishermen’s groups called on Jayalalithaa to seek her approval for a meeting with counterparts in Sri Lanka. There was growing anger among fishermen that the governments were deliberately dragging their feet on finding a solution to the long-standing problem. A section felt that facilitating such a meeting with participation of Lankan fishermen could amount to betrayal of Tamil interests.

Sri Lanka’s Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne is scheduled to visit India soon to discuss the issue of fishermen from both sides crossing into each other’s territories. Tamil Nadu Fishermen’s Association leader N J Bose said they have been invited to a meeting with the Lankan minister. “We were informed by officials in the Union government that there would be a meeting with Rajitha during his visit to Delhi. We are preparing the list of fishermen likely to take part in the meeting,” he added.

The Tamil Nadu fishermen have been urging the Centre to take measures to organize talks between representatives from India and Sri Lanka. U Arulanandam of Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said the Centre was better placed than the state government in organizing inter-country talks. “The Centre must take up things more aggressively and talk to the Lankan government,” he said.

Fishermen leaders in Rameswaram had received an invite to visit Sri Lanka for talks in October and they have been seeking an appointment with the chief minister. However, the situation has changed since the invite in October as many Lankan fishermen have been arrested for trespass into Indian waters. ARIF leaders said the arrests of Lankan fishers could hamper the talks.

Bose said the meeting between fishermen of both countries would definitely result in a solution. “In our earlier meeting in 2011, both sides agreed on a few demands. We wanted 70 fishing days in Sri Lanka’s territory. They too had similar demands. But, the talks did not proceed to the next level,” he said. Sri Lanka claims 213 of its fishermen and 40 vessels were in Indian custody. At least 172 men and 32 vessels were held in Tamil Nadu and the rest in Andhra Pradesh. (Courtesy The Times of India)

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