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Expressing deep concern over the continued arrest and harassment of fishermen at the hands of Sri Lankan navy, the Federation of Fishermen Rights urged the Centre to protect their rights and provide compensation and livelihood to the families of those who lost their breadwinners.

The federation, in its fifth State conference here recently on the occasion of International Human Rights Day adopted a resolution pointing out that a large number of families lost their livelihood after their boats were confiscated and detained by the Lankan authorities.

A large number of fishermen families in the coastal districts struggled to make both ends meet after their breadwinners were incarcerated in Lankan prisons.

Fishermen who hailed from Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Nagapattinam and Karaikal regions faced huge threats to their livelihood as they were often arrested by the Lankan navy on charges of poaching, it said.

The livelihood of those arrested virtually came to a standstill as the Lankan authorities refused to release their boats. If this was the plight of fishermen, families, which lost their breadwinners, faced the worst situation in the absence of any support from the government, the federation said in another resolution.

There was no guarantee to the rights and properties of the fishermen and they were forced to protect themselves, the federation said. There would be no guarantee to the livelihood of fishermen unless the government stepped in and work out a lasting solution to their problems, it said.

In another resolution, it urged the Centre to bring the fishing community under the scheduled tribe category and extend the benefits of reservation in jobs and education presently available to the scheduled tribes.

It also urged the Centre to create a separate ministry for fisheries and ensure that the benefits and employment opportunities reached the traditional fishermen. The conference was chaired by C.J. Rajan, State coordinator of the federation, and presided over by V. Arulraj, secretary.

Swamy Pravanandar of Vivekananda Kudil, A. Clement Raja, correspondent, St. Joseph Higher secondary School, Parish Priest Jerry, Patrick, president of Pamban Panchayat, and U. Arulanandam, president, Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), addressed the conference.

“The livelihood of those arrested virtually comes to a standstill as Lankan authorities refuse to release their boats.” (The Hindu)