The highest number of fishermen (23) caught in a single day was on February 13. (express File)
Admitting that a total of 63 fishermen and 11 boats from Gujarat have been apprehended by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency within a week’s time this February, the state government on Friday told the Gujarat Assembly that these fishermen were caught after they crossed over the international maritime boundary that Gujarat shares with its western neighbour.
The issue was raised by Punja Vansh, a Congress MLA from Una, under Rule 116 of the state legislature as he pointed out that within a week, an estimated figure of 76 fishermen from Okha and Porbandar were “kidnapped” along with their boats at the Arabian Sea by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency.
“This issue has repeatedly been raised in this House and this government has been giving a similar reply every time. You have been in power for the last 22 years. What effective steps have you taken?” asked Vansh who wanted to know whether the state government would provide financial assistance to fishermen who died in Pakistani jails.
In a statement tabled in the House, state minister for Fisheries, Jawahar Chavda pointed out that 63 fishermen and 11 boats were seized by Pakistan in four separate incidents between February 13 and 18, 2020. The highest number of fishermen (23) caught in a single day was on February 13. The minister’s reply also named the owners of the seized boats, the names and registration numbers of the boats and the names of the fishermen who were
“If the last 5-6 years are considered since 2014-’15, then 1,623 Indian fishermen were taken by Pakistan. During this period, 1,750 of the arrested fishermen have been brought back from Pakistan. In short, we have brought more than they have taken. The Government of India has done a lot of hard work,” the minister said. Chavada said only 231 fishermen were “missing” as of now and the rest of the apprehended fishermen have returned home.
Intervening on the issue, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that there were over 28,000 fishing boats in the state. “It is not kidnapping as it is being claimed. We share a maritime boundary with Pakistan and our fishermen cross the boundary and go into Pakistan, and then they are caught there. 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 remarked.
He said that the state government along with the Centre was trying to arm these fishermen with necessary technology to ensure that they don’t cross the international boundary. “We are giving families of fishermen (caught by Pakistan) Rs 300 as daily assistance,” Rupani said.
He added that the Centre is trying its best to get Pakistan to return the seized boats. “The way the (terrorist) attack on Mumbai happened, the boat — Kuber — of our own fishermen was used to get into our territory. We have discussed this recently, these seized boats should not be misused,” the CM said.