Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 505

Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 505

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Troubled waters: On Palk Bay fishing conflict

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The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu — one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India — allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance ( an example or case (of something) ) of the unresolved ( (of a problem, question, or dispute) not resolved ) fisheries conflict ( a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one ) in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives.

While fishermen in Tamil Nadu say the four were killed in an attack by the Sri Lankan Navy, the latter ( occurring or situated nearer to the end of something than to the beginning ) maintains that they died when their trawler ( a fishing boat used for trawling ) collided with a naval vessel while trying to avoid being apprehended ( arrest (someone) for a crime ).

India has lodged a strong protest with the Sri Lankan authorities, who have set up a committee to find a permanent solution to the incursions ( an invasion or attack, especially a sudden or brief one ) by Indian fishermen. It was less than a month ago that the two countries resumed discussions through their Joint Working Group on fisheries after a three-year gap.

India sought ( attempt to find (something) ) the early release of fishermen arrested in Sri Lankan waters, as well as the boats in Sri Lankan custody. Sri Lanka underscored the need to curb ( a check or restraint on something ) the illegal fishing, which adversely affects the livelihood of its war-affected fishermen.

When the two sides decided to create a joint working group some years ago, they had agreed that there would be no violence or loss of life in the handling of the fishermen and that a hotline ( a direct phone line set up for a specific purpose, especially for use in emergencies or for communication between heads of government ) would be established between the respective Coast Guards. It is unfortunate that the hotline is yet to be operationalised, and deaths continue to occur.

The humanitarian approach that has been expected to be the cornerstone of the approach to this conflict has not always been discernible ( able to be discerned; perceptible ; visible ). The plan to wean ( be strongly influenced by (something), especially from an early age ) away Tamil Nadu fishermen from the tendency ( an inclination towards a particular characteristic or type of behaviour ) to exploit ( make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource) ) the remaining fishery resources on the Sri Lankan side by replacing their trawlers with deep sea fishing vessels has not really taken off.

Attempts to forge ( make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and hammering it ) a negotiated ( try to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion ) settlement through direct talks involving fishermen from both sides have also reached a stalemate ( a situation in which further action or progress by opposing or competing parties seems impossible ).

Sri Lanka favours joint patrolling by both countries, and a ban on unsustainable fishing practices by Tamil Nadu fishermen — such as bottom trawling — but the latter want a lengthy phase-out period. Political leaders in Tamil Nadu rarely acknowledge that the State’s fishermen contribute immensely ( extremely ; very ) to the problem by crossing territorial waters.

Nor is there sufficient recognition that the incursion ( an invasion or attack, especially a sudden or brief one ) into Sri Lankan waters is driven by trawler owners who force their poor employees to do so, who then get killed or arrested, leading to the festering ( becoming worse or more intense, especially through long-term neglect or indifference ) conflict ( a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one ).

So far there has not been enough political resolve to end this conflict. A comprehensive solution, one that would severely curtail ( reduce in extent or quantity; impose a restriction on ) unauthorised fishing and help in an orderly sharing of and sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides, is long overdue ( not having arrived, happened, or been done by the expected time ).

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