In Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, fishermen are in a Catch-22 situation. With Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) preying on Indian fishermen who accidentally cross non-demarcated sea boundaries in search of a good catch, banks are refusing to give them loans to buy trawlers. Managers of both public and private banks have officially put loans to fishermen in the “risky investment” category, owing to arrests of fishermen and confiscation of their boats in alleged international waters. This makes loan recovery near-impossible.
To date, 765 trawlers, each worth Rs30-35 lakh and supporting the livelihood of 100 people, are in Pakistan’s custody. While some fishermen are let off in prisoner swaps, after protracted negotiations years after being jailed, their trawlers are never released. Pakistani peace activist Karamat Ali, while conducting a survey in his own country, found around 200 Indian trawlers in Pakistani custody which could be put to work after minor repair works. But, he points out, governments fail to pursue the release of trawlers while pushing for prisoner exchange. There are reports that Pakistani maritime agencies recently auctioned some Indian boats at throwaway prices, which is illegal and in violation of international laws and treaties.