Chennai: The Madras High Court passed an order stating that the Tamil Nadu government must provide maximum subsidy for transponders to fishermen of the state.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed the Madras High Court that it had no plans of providing satellite phones to fishermen. However, in a letter to the assistant solicitor general, the MEA said that a pilot study to evaluate the transponder technology, developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), had been undertaken.

In this regard, ISRO has stated that 1,050 transponders terminals, which are wireless satellite-based communication devices considered for fitment on the fishing vessels, were being installed in 20-metre fishing vessels in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Puducherry. The MEA also stated that the transponders fitted in the mechanised boats were still in the trial stage and their efficacy was being monitored by ISRO.

The fishermen have complained that the battery connected to the transponders drains out within 30 minutes after it is switched on.

The matter came up in the Madras High court after an NGO, Fishermen Care had filed a PIL before a division bench comprising Justices S Manikumar and Justice Subramanium Prasad. The PIL sought direction to the Centre to refer all cases of violation of human rights of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka to the International Court of Justices.

Based on this PIL, the bench stated that the safety and security of the fishermen must be considered. The court desired that the Tamil Nadu government extend maximum subsidy to the fishermen and submit a report by February 20.

Fishermen in Tamil Nadu are often caught by Sri Lankan coast guards for allegedly fishing in Sri Lankan territory. Several fishermen from Pudukottai and Rameswaram have not only been arrested by the Lankan army but many of them are often lost at sea while trying to escape the coast guard.