The recent killing of a fisherman, allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, had its echo in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday with Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin, engaging in a heated debate on the issue. The fisherman, Britjo, was shot dead while fishing off Katchatheevu. Stalin, referring to the killing of Britjo on March 6, said retrieving Katchatheevu islet was the solution to the problems faced by fisherfolk.
Stalin, who had given a calling attention motion on the issue, listed several other incidents of arrests and impounding of boats of Tamil fisherman by the island nation. When Jayakumar said the islet was ceded in 1974, Stalin sprang to his feet to make a point and found support from DMK and Congress members.
Stalin said he wanted to make a clarification since the Minister referred to the year 1974, when DMK was in power. He said despite Tamil Nadu government’s opposition, the islet was ceded and added that the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had written to Indira Gandhi, who was the Prime Miister, against the move.
The move was also opposed in Parliament by DMK MP Era Sezhiyan and protests were held in Tamil Nadu. Intervening, Jayakumar said people knew who ‘betrayed’ the state on the Katchatheevu issue and sought to know if DMK had moved the court to retrieve the islet when former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had filed a petition in the matter.
Recalling his recent visit to Delhi where he had met Union Ministers, he said the problems faced by Tamil Nadu fishermen had been taken up. He said the Centre was requested to take steps to ensure that fishermen were not harassed by Sri Lanka and also to implement a special package for them to take up deep sea fishing.
The Fisheries Minister said the Centre had given an assurance that steps would be taken to bring back the fishermen’s boats stranded in Lanka. It had also assured that Rs 500 crore would be provided annually for deep sea fishing and the state had been asked to give a matching grant.