Nine fishermen from Chennai’s Royapuram region who had gone missing after they went for deep-sea fishing on July 23 were rescued on Monday (September 14) off the Myanmar coast, amid allegations that the Centre and the state did nothing to help locate them.
The fishermen were expected to return in 15 days after they ventured into the sea. But when they did not return for more than a month, the fishing community in Chennai complained to the state fisheries department and demanded a search operation to locate them.
The fishermen were found at a Myanmar coast after 50 days and were rescued by the Myanmar Navy.
A statement from the state fisheries department said they were all in good health and were being provided with food and other facilities. Necessary steps were being taken to bring them back home, it said.
“The fishermen could have been washed ashore following a possible malfunctioning in the boat,” said Kurumpanai Berlin, the founder of Neithal Makkal Iyakkam, which works for the rights and welfare of the fisher folk in the state.
The fishing community has alleged that the state and the Coast Guard did nothing to locate the fishermen. They just kept passing the buck, it said.
According to them, after the missing complaint was made, the state government said it was taking all necessary steps to locate them with the help of the Indian Coast Guard. The Coast Guard, however, said its jurisdiction is only up to 60 nautical miles and it couldn’t find any boats in that limit.
The Indian Navy controls the waters from 60 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles. Though the state claimed that it was searching for the missing fishermen along with the Navy, the fishing community alleged that neither the Centre nor the state took sufficient measures to locate them.
Meanwhile, the state government said that it has, through the external affairs ministry, sought search operations near the Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand coasts.
“These fishermen went more than 300 nautical miles into the sea, from where people have been rescued in the past. During an emergency like this, it is laughable that the Coast Guard insists on going by the book. They can even go beyond 60 nautical miles to search for missing people. Beyond 200 nautical miles, the Centre can ask for help from the neighbouring countries. But in this case, such measures were not taken” alleged Berlin.
“It was the Myanmar navy that rescued them, but now the state fisheries department is taking credit. This is meaningless,” said Berlin.