The Madras High Court Tuesday observed that the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government should extend maximum subsidy to fishermen in the state to fix transponders in boats so that it can prevent them from violating international maritime borders.
A division bench of justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad made the observation while hearing a PIL moved by Fishermen Care, a fishermen rights organisation, seeking a direction to the Centre to refer all cases of violation of human rights of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The bench observed that considering the cost of the transponders and the continuous problems which the fishermen face all along, the government should come forward to provide financial assistance to the fishermen by extending the subsidy to the maximum.
As directed by the court earlier, an officer from ISRO appeared and explained about the functioning of transponders. It was explained that to fix one transponder the cost would be around Rs 40,000 following which the court made the observation.
Earlier, the court had directed the officials concerned to furnish details which could help fishermen from crossing the international maritime borders.
The court was informed that by fixing transponders in the fishing boats it will be easy for fishermen to know where they are.
Dony Michael, Deputy Inspector General of Indian Coast Guard, filed a report before the court.
In his report, he said non-mechanised or country crafts were not fitted with any communication or navigational equipment.
The non-mechanised boats (country crafts) were not registered with the fisheries department and it did not have any data on these crafts.
Distress Alert Transponders (DATS) (to be transmitted only in distress), developed by ISRO, have been issued to fishermen at subsidised rates.
The Indian Coast Guard has distributed 786 DATS to fishermen.
Fitment of Automatic Identification System (AIS) on board the IFBs will largely alleviate the cross border activity and will ensure positive tracking and accountability of Indian fishing boats, Michael submitted.
He said if the fishing boats were fitted with AIS transponders, detection and the identity of the vessels can be ascertained. However, presently fitment of AIS transponder onboard fishing boats were not mandatory and hence none of the fishing boats were fitted with AIS transponder.
In developed countries, fitment of AIS or other suitable transponder onboard their fishing boats was a mandatory requirement.
"To monitor through other passive electronic means, in Phase II of construction of shore radar stations, the Radar Station Olaikunda at Rameshwaram and Tondi are planned to be commissioned by end of 2019 or early 2020 and would largely augment in existing ICG efforts to enhance electronic surveillance in the area.
The fitment of AIS onboard IFBs was a central and state government policy decision and involves financial implications and may be taken at appropriate competent level."
Fitment of VHF sets was mandatory as per state fisheries regulations for mechanized IFBs and most of them were supplied by the state government under their fisheries policy.
Matter for fitment of VHF sets onboard country crafts was essentially recommended and may be made compulsory for positive registration, the officer added.
The bench recorded the submission and posted the matter for further hearing on October 12.
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