58 Indian fishermen, who were stranded in Iran for more than four months without work and without pay amid the coronavirus pandemic, arrived in Delhi today. Their return was made possible by Sanjay Prashar, president of the International Maritime Federation, who paid for all their tickets a few days after receiving an SOS call.
“The mental and physical exhaustion on their faces is obvious. They must now take a connecting flight,” said the team that helped the fishermen – 18 from Kerala and 40 from Tamil Nadu – to return home.
The fishermen were brought to Tehran airport on a bus on June 14. They landed in Delhi around 3 a.m. via Mahan Airways, which operated flights as part of the government’s Vande Bharat mission to repatriate stranded Indians abroad.
Earlier this year, the 18 fishermen from the coastal village of Kerala, Vizhinjam, had left for the first time in Iran to work on fishing boats for private employers.
“I paid my agent 50,000 rupees to go to Iran. Each of us in Kerala had paid this amount. I even mortgaged my wife’s wedding necklace (tali) for that. I come back with nothing. Since I had to borrow from friends so I could eat only one meal a day while I was stuck in Iran, I have accumulated a loan that I do not have to pay back, “Aruldas, 36, told GalacticGaming. who only managed the work for 10 to 12 days.
The rest of the months were mostly out of work due to the COVID-19 situation in the world, he said.
Melbai V, 50, only managed to work four days before being left unemployed for at least four months. “We were not even paid for the work we managed to do. We were told that our employer could not sell fish in Dubai because of the blockage,” he said.
Mr. Melbai’s two sons, who are in Thiruvananthapuram, are in the same boat as their father’s. They too have been unable to catch and sell anything for months due to the temporary ban on fishing activities in the district to avoid large gatherings.
“The 40 Tamil Nadu fishermen lived in two rooms, 20 in each room. They ate one or two meals a day. It was very difficult for them and they had little hope of returning before the repatriation flight.”, L Praveen Kumar, secretary general of the Maritime People’s Welfare Association, told GalacticGaming.
It was Mr. Kumar who first called SOS Mr. Sashar regarding the possibility of repatriating these stranded fishermen. “Within five working days, arrangements were made and the tickets sponsored by him,” he said.
“The fishermen who arrived today were not among the 550 fishermen who were repatriated from Iran on Indian navy vessels during the last week of June. Those who returned today were the people who were left because of capacity issues. They had a tough time. When I was a captain on big ships and I saw our fellow fishermen on the sea, I would always be struck by their guts. I’m glad I can help them. After all, we are all Indians, “Mr. Prashar told GalacticGaming.