May 7, 2015 :: As per the information made available by External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India total 538 Indian fishermen and 851 fishing boats are in custody of neighboring countries viz. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Minister of State for External Affairs General (Dr.) V.K. Singh (Retd) tabled the information in the Rajya Sabha on May 7, 2015 in reply to a question raised by MP Parimal Nathwani.
The minister stated that of total 538 fishermen and 851 fishing boats in custody of neighboring countries, 464 Indian fishermen and 823 Indian fishing boats are in the custody of Pakistani Authorities. The Government of Pakistan however admits to presence of only 303 Indian fishermen. He also informed that 37 Indian fishermen and 3 Indian fishing boats are in custody of Bangladesh authorities, while 37 Indian fishermen and 25 Indian fishing boats are in custody of Sri Lankan authorities.
Mr. Nathwani wanted to know about number of Indian fishermen and fishing boats in custody of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh along with the number of Indian fishermen and fishing boats released by the neighboring countries. He also wanted to know about steps taken by the Government of India to secure release of all the Indian fishermen and for rehabilitation of the fishermen and their families, whose boats have been confiscated by the neighboring countries.
In a statement presented in the parliament, the minister said that due to efforts of the Government of India, 172 Indian fishermen were released by Pakistan in February 2015. Moreover, 57 Indian fishing boats were also released by Pakistan on March 23, 2015, said the minister. He added that since October 2014 total 212 Indian fishermen were arrested in 15 different arrests by Bangladesh, who have been got released by the Government of India. The minister also stated that since January 2014, of total 964 Indian fishermen apprehended 927 Indian fishermen have been released by the Sri Lankan authorities.
The minister also said that Ministry of Agriculture is designated nodal agency for payment of compensation to fishermen lodged in Pakistani jails. Additionally, a Soft Loan Package for replacement of fishing vessels held in captivity in Pakistani authorities implemented by the Marine Exports Development Authorities (MPEDA).
According to the statement tabled in the house, the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee, consisting retired judges from both countries, visits jails in both countries to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners, including fishermen, who have completed their prison term.
The Government of India’s mission works closely with the Bangladesh Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and the public authorities to secure the release of Indian fishermen.
As soon as reports of apprehension of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy are received the Government, through diplomatic channels, takes up the matter with the Government of Sri Lanka to secure early release and repatriation of apprehended Indian fishermen, said the minister. He also stated that keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of the issue, the Government of India has impressed upon the Sri Lankan Navy to act with restraint, not to fire on Indian fishermen and treat Indian fishermen in a humane manner.