PM grants relief for Indian fishermen in Pakistan jails


New Delhi : Moved by the plight of Indian fishermen held captive in Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday announced a relief package, including an ex-gratia payment of Rs.300,000 ($7,500) to their immediate families.

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He also sanctioned for fishermen owners an outright grant of Rs 30,000 ($750) for smaller fishing boats and Rs.500,000 ($12,500) for trawlers seized by Pakistan.

“The grant is being made to ameliorate the hardships caused due to the continued retention of bread winners in captivity and to address the livelihood problems due to seizure of boats,” an official statement said.

The assistance will be provided from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) with the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) acting as the implementation agency.

The finance ministry shall also liaise with the implementation agency and the department of animal husbandry to develop a suitable soft loan package for the replacement of fishing craft.

The prime minister’s relief package will supplement all existing benefits, including those made by the Gujarat government, the statement said.

As many as 296 Indian fishermen are still in Pakistani jails, and 327 boats continue to be in Pakistani custody.

India has consistently taken up the issue of the release of Indian fishermen and their boats with Pakistan.

The issue was discussed at the home secretary-level talks held here in July this year with both sides agreeing to release eligible prisoners and fishermen and the boats, except trawlers, in each other’s custody on Aug 14-15 this year.

India kept its word, but Pakistan released only 100 Indian fishermen Aug 13.