A total of 233 fishermen from south Gujarat, who were stranded at Chiruyeh Port and Kish Island in Iran for over three months, returned back to their homes in Umargam taluka of Valsad district on June 18. Their family members thanked government authorities even as the fishermen claimed that each of them had paid 40 USD for their return to Porbandar in Gujarat, and an additional amount of Rs 1,100 for their journey from Porbandar to Valsad.
Clad in a yellow saree, Manisha Bariya (32) prepared fish curry on the occasion of her husband Surendra Bariya’s return. She said, “I had received information about his return the same afternoon. Seeing him for the first time in ten months was like a dream come true. Tears rolled down my eyes as he hugged me… It was a pleasant moment for us. I am thankful to God and the government of India for safely bringing him home.”
Iran was one of the first countries to be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. With local transport and airports shut, the stranded fishermen on February 27 had sent a video to their families in Umargam, requesting them to talk to political leaders so that they could be brought back to India.
Their family members made representations to BJP MLA of Umargam taluka Raman Patkar, who mailed the fishermen’s details to the Ministry of External Affairs. Patkar also reached out to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to request the Centre to make arrangements for bringing the stranded fishermen back home.
On June 6, the 233 fishermen were taken to a hotel at Bandar Abbas Port and medically examined. The following day, they boarded an Indian Navy ship and reached Porbandar on June 11. They were then kept in a hostel for a week, where their Covid-19 tests were conducted. Local authorities had also made arrangements for buses to drop them off to Umargam taluka. On jJune 18, they reached the taluka where the Mamlatda, local leaders and others felicitated them. Health department officials carried out their medical examinations again and later allowed them to go back to their home to their families.
Surendra Baraiya said, “Since the last 15 years, we have worked in Dubai. For the first time, the owner of the firm in Dubai took us to Iran for fishing work. We left India for Dubai on August 17, 2019. We stayed there for a week and were later taken to Iran at Chiruyeh Port. We used to sail at sea for six days at a time and return with the catches. The firm owner would take the catch, sell it in Dubai and return after five days. Iran was one of the first countries to be infected by coronavirus, after China. Our fishing work stopped on February 24 and we had been stranded on the ship since then. Nobody was known to ys in the new environment. It was difficult to spend three-and-a-half months there. “
“Our area was in a green zone. We were in contact with Indian Embassy officials and they guided us regarding safety precautions. We did not allow fishermen to leave the ship; only a few people went outside to purchase food and other items. Local people also helped us a lot in terms of providing essentials,” Surendra added. “We have decided that we will not go to Iran again…We are familiar with Arabic and people over there. If everything turns normal, we will go to Dubai.”
Another fisherman, Rohit Baraiya (50) said, “The Arabs had given us 600 dirhams each, which we used to pay for our journey back to India. Some locals had helped us to convert the currency into US dollars. Each of the fishermen paid 40 dollars to reach India and then Rs 1,100 to the bus driver. We are thankful to the Indian Navy and the government of India for bringing us back to our homeland.”
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