UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 23 April 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the need to resolve the India-Sri Lanka fisheries dispute and the way ahead.

Syllabus: GS-II International Relations; GS-III Economic

India-Sri Lanka fisheries dispute:

  • A number of events- some of them unfortunate- have occurred in the Palk Bay region that encompasses India’s Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.
    • For instance, seven fishermen- five from Tamil Nadu and two from Sri Lanka- have died in “mid-sea clashes”.
  • Just as sections of fishermen from the Palk Bay bordering districts of Tamil Nadu continue to transgress the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), cases of many of them getting arrested and their boats being impounded by the Sri Lankan authorities continue.
  • Apart from poaching in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka, the use of mechanised bottom trawlers is another issue that has become a bone of contention between the fishermen of the two countries; the dispute is not just between the two states.
  • At the same time, the fishermen of Tamil Nadu experience a genuine problem- the lack of fishing areas consequent to the demarcation of the IMBL in June 1974.
    • If they confine themselves to Indian waters, they find the area available for fishing full of rocks and coral reefs besides being shallow.
  • Another factor is that the people of the two countries in general and fisherfolk, in particular, have common threads of language, culture and religion, all of which can be used purposefully to resolve any dispute. 

Way Ahead:

  • While Indian fishermen can present a road map for their transition to deep-sea fishing or alternative methods of fishing, the Sri Lankan side has to take a pragmatic view that the transition cannot happen abruptly.
  • India will have to modify its scheme on deep-sea fishing to accommodate the concerns of its fishermen, especially those from Ramanathapuram district so that they take to deep-sea fishing without any reservation.
  • Also, there is a compelling need for the Central and State governments to implement in Tamil Nadu the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana in a proactive manner.
    • The scheme covers alternative livelihood measures too including seaweed cultivation, open sea cage cultivation, and sea/ ocean ranching.
  • India had signed a memorandum of understanding with Sri Lanka for the development of fisheries harbours.
    • This can be modified to include a scheme for deep-sea fishing to the fishermen of the North.
  • The India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group ( JWG) on fisheries held its much-awaited deliberations (in virtual format) on March 25.
    • It is a welcome development that the JWG has agreed to have joint research on fisheries, which should be commissioned at the earliest.
    • Such a study should cover the extent of the adverse impact of bottom trawling in the Palk Bay region.
  • Simultaneously, the two countries should explore the possibility of establishing a permanent multi-stakeholder institutional mechanism to regulate fishing activity in the region. 

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