99 fishermen released from Pak jails, to reach Vadodara today

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Vadodara, Nov 30 (UNI) A total of 99 Indian fishermen recently released from Pakistani jails, as part of a goodwill gesture, will reach here tonight by the Amritsar-Mumbai Golden Temple Express.

The fishermen, who were languishing in different Pakistani jails, since September, 2006, after the Pakistani Marine Security Agency (PMSA) captured them for illegally fishing within their territorial waters, were handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah land border on November 26.

According to official sources, the freed fishermen, who boarded the Golden Temple Express at Amritsar last night, would reach Vadodara around midnight tonight and leave for the port town of Veraval in Gujarat's Junagadh district early tomorrow by the Jabalpur Express to be handed over to their family members and employers. Senior officials of the Gujarat Fisheries Directorate are accompanying the fishermen.

Talking to UNI over phone, State Fisheries Department Superintendent Mahendra Chaudhury, who recently led an official delegation to Pakistan to take stock of the condition of Indian prisoners and their nearly 400 seized boats, said 336 more Indian fishermen were still languishing in Pakistani prisons and a total of 379 boats had been confiscated by Pakistan for alleged violation of the international border line.

On its return, the delegation headed by Mr Chaudhury, submitted its report to the Gujarat government, seeking immediate government action to secure release of at least 131 boats from Pakistan, as they could be sailed back to India after repair.

Of the total 379 seized boats, the Pakistan authorities could show the Indian delegation only 181 boats lying in a very bad shape at the Baba Island, close to the Karachi port, Mr Chaudhury said, adding that majority of the Indian trawlers, which cost Rs 15 lakh each, had been auctioned off. The Pakistan authorities, however, failed to produce any list of the seized Indian boats that they claimed to have been auctioned, the leader of the delegation said.

Earlier, Pakistan used to return the captured boats to the fishermen after completion of their jail term, but since October, 2003, Pakistan had not released a single Indian boat or trawler, as the fishermen were being sent back to India in batches through the Wagah land border, the sources said.

UNI SS SR SBC CS1802

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