Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (India)

c/o, F -10/12 (basement), Malviya Nagar, New Delhi 

Shri. Shashi Tharoor,
Chairman
Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs
New Delhi
May 4, 2017

Sub.: Your visit and Issues pertaining to fishermen of Saurashtra, Gujarat and Diu, UT.

 

Respected Sir,

Greeting from Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD).

This is an urgent appeal in the context of your visit to Diu and Porbandar along with other members of the Standing Committee on External Affairs. We would like to bring to your notice few issues which need to be looked into urgently.

The fishing community of Saurashtra and Diu are suffering and so is the economy of the region. The fear of arrest by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) is constantly at the back of everyone’s mind which is a major hindrance. . Of late, besides the  traditional fishing community, Kharva, people from other states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh are also going to catch fish. One can even find people from Nepal on the fishing boats.

The people from the fishing community go to catch fish as they have no other source of income or livelihood. In 2008,  30 Indian  fishermen were caught, all of whom were minors, in a Karachi jail. They had said that they will now never go to mid-sea to catch fish as there is a possibility of getting arrested. However, just a few months later, they were found getting on to a boat in order to go fishing. It is a question of life and livelihood for them which needs to be accepted.

We demand:

  1. Both India and Pakistan should release all fishermen from their custody.  Both the governments have made statements saying no arrested fishermen have been found indulging in terrorist activities and hence, the basis of arrests is extremely feeble.
  2. The Agreement on Consular Access, 2008, needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. There are cases of Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistan’s jail even after completion of their sentences as their nationality is not confirmed. There are cases wherein, even after a year, people are in jail. Nationality must be confirmed in 90 days. In the age of technology, it can be done easily.  It is important that the government authorities of both countries take responsibility of this and report about the reason for delay in each and every case. 
  3. The worst thing is when a fisherman dies in the other country’s jail it takes more than a month for body to reach to his village. In case of Vaaga Chauhan of Gujarat it took four months for body to arrive. Such delay is against humanity.
  4. Over the years, Pakistan has confiscated more than 900 boats of Indian fishermen. The average cost of a boat is Rs50 lakh. We believe that around 175 boats can be brought back with some repair work. Pakistan had released 57 Indian boats in March 2015 and they committed to release 22 more but that has not yet happened.
  5. There is an urgent need for a No Arrest Policy in the case of these fishermen. If Indian Coast Guard realizes Pakistani fishing boats have entered the Indian territory, then instead of arresting them, they should just be sent back. Pakistan’s MSA should act in a similar manner in case of Indian fishermen.
  6. Government of India gives Rs. 150 per day to the family members of arrested fishermen which is well appreciated but looking at the expenses today, the amount is too less and must be increased to Rs. 500.
  7. In January 2007, both the governments had set up an India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners consisting of retired judges of the higher judiciary which was extremely effective in getting prisoners released. The judges would interact with the prisoners from the other country and unanimously recommended release of all fishermen. Unfortunately, the Committee has not met since the last three years and needs to be restored. Even Sushma Swaraj ji last year told family members of Kirpal Singh, who died mysteriously in Lahore jail, that India will try to revive the Indo-Pak Judicial Committee dealing with the welfare and overall status of prisoners of India and Pakistan. But, there is no progress on this matter.
  8. The pollution levels on the Gujarat coast is high which is why fishermen need to go deeper into the sea in order to get a decent catch. This is a growing concern that needs to be addressed.
  9. Special arrangement needs to be made for arrested fishermen to talk to their relatives. As the visa is a major issue between two countries, the arrested fishermen should be given an opportunity to interact with their families once in three months at least. Skype can be used for the purpose. The arrested Indian fishermen can talk to their relatives from Pakistan’s jail. Similarly, arrested Pakistani fishermen can talk to their relatives from an Indian jail. The relatives can also be brought at one place. It will also assure family members of the well being of their loved ones. There are organizations, like the Edhi Foundation in Pakistan who can specifically engage and collaborate to take on such tasks.
  10. Fishing community in both the countries constitutes a huge population that needs to be taken into confidence.

 Thanking you,

 Yours Sincerely,

Jatin Desai, General Secretary

PIPFPD (India Chapter) 

For Further Details Contact: pipfpd.india@gmail.com | M: 09869077718