THE 19 fishermen arrested in Diego Garcia have a to pay a fine of ` 6.5 lakh before a court there for their release. The fishermen, including six from Thiruvananthapuram, 12 from Tamil Nadu and one from Assam, were picked up by British Coast Guard for violating territorial waters on May 27. Delay in seeking their release has irked the fishermen community. “The governments – both at Centre and State – have spent considerable energy and money to help people facing similar distress. But their inability to cough up the release amount shows discrimination towards fishers, said National Fishworkers Federation (NFF) T Peter. The fishermen in custody had gone in two boats belonging Antony Benjamin of Kochi and Jagan Yesudasan of Tamil Nadu. A court in the atoll nation slapped the fine for repeatedly violating its sea territory. A similar incident had occurred six months ago involving nine fishermen. Peter said strong winds could have drifted the boats to the island. Fishermen go to far-off locations as the catch in Indian sea has dwindled in recent years. “The urgency shown by the Central government to release Italian marines who killed our men should be shown in releasing these fishermen, said Peter. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma had requested the Central government on separate occasions seeking steps for the release of fishermen. Diego Garcia is an atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean.

2016, The New Indian Express.