Chennai, Oct 29 : Six Indian fishermen, who were reported missing off the southern coast last month and rescued by Sri Lankan fishermen, returned to Chennai safely. The fishermen, missing off the Kasimedu coast since September 18, were stranded on the high seas after their boat ran out of fuel.
The fishermen were sighted by some Sri Lankan fishermen and were taken to Trincomallee in Sri Lanka, and later to Colombo, from where the Indian High Commission made arrangements for them to be deported to India.
The fishermen were given a warm welcome when they touched home turf.
P. Gopal, a rescued fisherman, said: "We went for fishing on September 18 in our boat. We ran out of fuel and were stranded on the sea for many days. When one day suddenly some Sri Lankan fishermen sighted us and took us safely to their country."
The Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister K.K.P. Swamy said Sri Lanka was taking more interest in the case of Indian fishermen straying on to their waters because of the pressure put on Colombo by the Indian Government, thanks to the intervention of State Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.
"The situation has changed and is not like before. It's because of the efforts taken by Karunanidhi on the Sri Lankan or Tamils problem. He pressured the Centre that both fisherman of Tamil Nadu and fishermen of Sri Lanka should not be affected, for that effort centre had responded well. I hope, in future fishermen will not get any more problems," he said.
India and Sri Lanka have long been involved in conflict over the venturing of innocent fishermen into each other's territorial waters.
Many a times the Indian fishermen who crossed the international maritime border line have been fired upon at by the Sri Lankan navy. Recently, India held talks with Sri Lanka to chalk out a practical solution to resolve the issue.
According to an agreement, called Katchathivu agreement, signed between India and Sri Lanka in 1974, the Indian fishermen were allowed to rest, fish and dry their nets on the islands. Later the agreement was amended by a 1976 executive order, which took away those rights, mainly responsible for the current scenario.