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Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has urged Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to relax the stringent coastal security guidelines imposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, saying the restrictions are hurting the marine sector and have resulted in the loss of nearly Rs 2,800 crore in the past two years.
In a letter to Shinde, Pawar stated that the restrictions have brought the export of high-valued tuna fish to a standstill and despite India being the second largest fish producing nation in the world, the country lacks skilled professionals and resources specific to deep sea fishing vessels (DSFVs). The high quality tuna fish, which gets exported, is found in the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) between 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles “for which the Indian fishing crew are not trained and lack endurance, as long voyages of 3-5 months are required for tuna fishing,” he wrote.
The terrorists had used the sea route to enter the Indian waters and carried out the audacious attacks in Mumbai, forcing the government to introduce stringent measures for coastal security. Nearly five years have passed since the 26/11 attacks, but MHA is still treading cautiously when it comes to giving security clearances. In its new guidelines on granting employment visa, the MHA had stated that the foreign crew engaged by the fishing companies should be earning at least $25,000 per annum. It also further limited the number of foreign crew members to a maximum of 10-15 per cent of the team strength engaged in fishing. Earlier, the policy of Letter of Permission allowed import of DSFVs where the number of foreign crew on board these vessels could go up to 75 per cent.
Pawar in his letter stated: “The status-quo be maintained on the issue of grant of security clearances to the foreign crew by allowing 75 per cent crew on deep sea fisheries. This would help ensure that another marine fishing season is not lost.”
MHA officials said after Pawar’s letter, the government has relaxed the condition of minimum salary of $25,000 for grant of security clearance to foreign crew till December 31, 2013.