Rameswaram (TN): As Tamil Nadu fishermen continue to be arrested and their boats seized by Sri Lanka, BJP is being accused by them of reneging on its promise to protect their interests after assuming power at the Centre.
The Tamil Nadu BJP had promised a separate ministry for the welfare of fishermen at the Centre during the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.
The party had also promised an end to alleged harassment of fishermen at the hands of Sri Lankan Naval personnel in the Palk Staits, something that has going on for over three decades.
The BJP state unit for the past several years has been focusing on the travails of fishermen, a sensitive and a politically emotive issue.
In a gesture of solidarity, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj even visited coastal Nagapattinam district to call on the family of Jayakumar, a fisherman who was allegedly killed by Sri Lankan Navy in 2011.
Over a period of time, BJP pitched itself as a strong espouser of rights of fishermen. Now, it finds itself in a tight spot with 75 boats and 25 fishermen in Sri Lankan custody.
A sense of resentment is pervading among fishermen in coastal districts against BJP as Lanka is refusing to release boats.
The cost of each boat is said to be worth several lakhs and fishermen are struggling to repay debts.
"We do not know if BJP regime is taking any effort at all to permanently solve the Indo-Lanka fishermen issue," President, Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust, (an aid organisation working for fishermen welfare) P Justin Antony told PTI.
"Only now we understand that BJP used the issue of setting up a separate ministry for the welfare of fishermen as a gimmick to garner votes," he added.