Admitting that a total of 63 fishermen and 11 boats from Gujarat have been apprehended by Pakistan within a week, the state government told the Assembly these boats had crossed the international maritime boundary line.
The issue was raised by Congress MLA Punja Vansh under Rule 116 of the state legislature, where he said that within a week, an estimated 76 fishermen from Okha and Porbandar had been “kidnapped” by Pakistan in the Arabian Sea.
“This issue has repeatedly been raised in this House and the government has given similar replies every time. You have been in power for 22 years. What effective steps have you taken?” said Vansh.
The Una MLA further asked if the government would provide financial help to fishermen who die in Pakistani jails. In response, Jawahar Chavda, state minister for Fisheries, tabled a statement in the House, saying 63 fishermen and 11 boats were seized by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency between February 13 and 18. The highest number of fishermen (23) caught in a single day was on February 13.
The minister’s reply also mentioned the names of the owners of the seized boats, the boats’ names and registration numbers, and the names of the fishermen apprehended.
“Since 2014-15, 1,623 Indian fishermen were taken by Pakistan. As many as 1,750 of them were brought back. In short, we have brought back more than they have taken. The Government of India has done a lot of hard work,” Chavda said, adding that only 231 fishermen are “missing” as of now.
Intervening on the issue, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said there were more than 28,000 fishing boats in the state that shares a maritime border with Pakistan. “It is not kidnapping, as is being claimed. We share a maritime boundary with Pakistan and our fishermen cross the boundary and go into Pakistan, where they are caught. It is not as if someone comes into our territory and kidnaps them. Similarly, Pakistan’s fishermen are caught when they enter our boundary,” Rupani said.
He said that the state government along with the Centre was trying to arm these fishermen with the necessary technology to ensure they do not cross the boundary. “We are giving families of fishermen (caught by Pakistan) Rs 300 as daily assistance,” Rupani said, adding that the Centre is trying it’s best to get Pakistan to return the seized boats.
“The way the (terrorist) attack on Mumbai happened, a boat — Kuber — of our own fishermen was used to enter our territory. We have discussed this recently. These seized boats should not be misused,” Rupani said.
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