ALAPPUZHA: Fear has gripped the fishing community in the coastal areas of the district following the news of the boat tragedy which claimed the lives of five fishermen on Thursday. The news comes hot on the heels of the killing of two fishermen by Italian marines of Enrica Lexie, two weeks ago, off Kerala coast.
Hundreds of fishermen and relatives of those who were on board the boat Don I gathered at the harbour on Thursday morning, protesting against the apathy of the authorities. Following the firing incident two weeks ago, the coastal people had appealed for support, but the authorities failed in providing the much-needed succour. This time again, they had to remain silent spectators to the tragedy.
Officials from the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Marine Enforcement Department and the district administration simply waited on the shore, without any hint at action.
Eventually, the fishermen themselves came to the rescue of their colleagues, said Sebastian Valentine, a trade union leader for Neendakara village.
â€śDon I, the fishing boat owned by Jacob Antony of Neendakara, had ventured into the sea on Sunday night with seven fishermen on board. Justine was the srank (captain) of the boat. They were supposed to return to the shore by Friday morning with their catch, but it was not to be,â€ť said Fr Franklin Francis, the vicar of the St Andrews church, Kovilthottam.
The vicar said: â€śThe Marine Enforcement Department claimed that they had bought three most-modern interceptor boats to rescue fishermen in distress, but the vessels were idling at Thrikunnapuzha. If the interceptors had been functional, they would have been deployed to rescue the fishermen. The interceptors can travel at a speed of 13 nautical miles an hour. But, as things turned out, the injured persons could be brought to the shore only after six long hours,â€ť he said.
James, former member of the Chavara panchayat, said: â€śThe inaction on the part of the authorities is posing a threat to the lives of the fisherfolk. Crores of rupees is being spent in the name of development of coastal areas, but the truth is that the fishing community is simply being neglected.â€ť