Tamil Nadu’s fishing boats to get GPS for protection

July 16th, 2008 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, July 16 (IANS) In a bid to protect Indian fishermen from attacks by the Sri Lankan navy, Tamil Nadu has decided to equip boats plying between the two countries with global positioning system (GPS) to keep track of them. In the first phase, the GPS system will be installed in 1,697 mechanised boats and 4,620 non-mechanised ones. The project, which will be implemented by the Electronic Corporation of Tamil Nadu (Elcot), is estimated to cost Rs.77 million, officials in the fisheries department said here Wednesday.

The high frequency devices can be tracked up to 10 nautical miles from the control room and the hub. Beyond that, the GPS-equipped boat’s radio can communicate with another GPS boat within 10 nautical miles. Therefore, any distress communication can be relayed from boat to boat.

While the main control room will be in Chennai, three communication towers will be set up along the coast in Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin.

The GPS plan will be officially announced at a DMK meeting called by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Thursday to discuss the alleged attacks on fishermen by Sri Lanka’s navy.

The Sri Lankan navy allegedly opened fire Sunday on 100 Indian fishermen in 30 boats off the Nagappattinam coast, 350 km from here. However, no lives were lost in the incident. On Saturday, two Indian fisherman were killed when a Sri Lankan navy vessel allegedly opened fire on their fishing boat, a survivor of the incident said.

Indian fishermen claim there have been at least half a dozen cases of such firing in the last two months. In 2007, three people were killed and as many as five fishermen have been killed since January this year.

Thousands of fishermen from Rameshwaram have been on strike since July 3, protesting alleged on over 1,000 Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan naval personnel July 2.

Fishing department officials say this is resulting in a daily Rs.30 million loss to the industry. Fishermen from neighbouring Nagapattinam have also threatened protests in solidarity.

Many political parties too have been mounting pressure on the Tamil Nadu government to check Sri Lankan action on Indian fishermen.

Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary D. Raja said here Wednesday said he failed to understand why the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was “silent” on the matter.

“The centre should take up the issue with (Sri Lankan) President Mahinda Rajapakse during the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit hosted by Sri Lanka next month,” he said.

The Pattali Makkal Katchi, a UPA ally, has urged India not to take part in the Saarc summit as a mark of protest against Sri Lanka’s frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu’s fishermen.

Sri Lanka, however, denies the charge and says Indian boats are intruding into its economic zone and are smuggling for the outlawed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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