The Tamil Nadu government led by J. Jayalalithaa on Wednesday said that due to its consistent efforts Sri Lanka had released over 500 fishermen arrested by its navy since May, 2011 and re-affirmed that retrieval of â€˜katchatheevu,â€™ an islet ceded by India to the neighbouring nation in 1974, was its â€œtopmost agenda.â€
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had written 17 letters to the Centre on the issue of arrests of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy who also allegedly attacked them, the Press Trust of India reported.
â€œDue to the consistent efforts taken by the government, 505 arrested fishermen since May 2011 (217 in 2011, 219 in 2012 and 69 till date in 2013) have been released by the Sri Lankan authorities and repatriated to Tamil Nadu,â€ State Fisheries Minister K. A. Jayapal told the State Assembly.
He assured the House of action for release of the â€œremaining innocentâ€ fishermen lodged in Sri Lankan jails but did not specify the exact number.
Jayapal said the fishermen from the districts off Palk Bay in the State who â€˜driftâ€™ to the other side of International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) while fishing in Palk Strait were at times â€œarrested/harassed by the Sri Lankan navy.â€
Taking a â€˜serious view,â€™ of this, Jayalalithaa had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 17 times since May 2011, nine letters seeking steps for release of arrested fishermen and the rest asking him to take â€œurgent stepsâ€ to prevent the mid-sea incidents of â€˜harassmentâ€™ Mr. Jayapal reiterated the governmentâ€™s commitment on retrieval ofKatchatheevu as that and restoration of traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay area â€œare the topmost agenda of the government of Tamil Nadu.â€
The islet was ceded to Sri Lanka â€œunilaterally,â€ he said adding government was taking pro-active steps such as State Revenue Department impleading in a case filed by Jayalalithaa in the Supreme Court in 2008 against the Indo-Lanka agreement.
The government had also filed an â€˜Expedite petitionâ€™ in the apex Court last year, he added.