With Sri Lanka reeling under a severe economic crisis, sixteen Sri Lankan nationals reached Indian shores on March 22 in a bid to escape the situation.
The sixteen people came in two batches of six and ten to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram after a strenuous journey on their boats. The six persons, including three children, were left stranded mid-sea and were rescued by Coast Guard officials on Tuesday, 22 March. Ten more persons reached Indian shores late on Tuesday night.
According to The Indian Express, the six persons have been identified as Gajendran (24), his wife Mary Clarine (22), and 4-months-old son; and, Tiori Anistan (28), and her two children aged six and nine. The report stated that the identities of the second group are being verified. It includes three women and five children.
The first batch of six persons had attempted to land at Dhanushkodi by a boat but were forced to disembark midway by the man who agreed to ferry them and were stranded on a sand dune, officials said.
Following a tip-off from the police, the Coast Guard rescued them and brought them ashore where an enquiry was on, they added. On receipt of input, ICGS (Indian Coast Guard Ship) Mandapam launched Hovercraft H-181 immediately and later located the six persons.
Mary Clarine said that they were dropped off at the island saying that they will be picked by another boat but none came, prompting them to call for help. “We are coming here due to the economic crisis. We did not bring food or water and had to stay a whole night without food and water.” She also added that her husband is from Erode.
A release from the Coast Guard said: "Upon investigation, it was ascertained that these six Sri Lankan personnel comprising one man, two women and three children were residents of Jaffna and Kokupadaiyan (in Sri Lanka).
All six persons were brought to Mandapam hoverport safely. A joint interrogation was carried out upon their arrival. On completion of the interrogation, they were handed over to the Mandapam Coastal Security Group for further action.”
Officials said that the second group of ten persons reached on a fibre boat, and had left the Mannar coast on Monday night and reportedly spent a total of Rs 3 lakh for the journey.
After the boat developed a technical issue, they had to spend a day repairing it in the middle of the sea before reaching the Pamban bridge around 9 pm on Tuesday night.
One of the women from the first set of people who reached Dhanushkodi told reporters that they had crossed over to India as prices of many essential commodities were skyrocketing, and they were finding it difficult to manage the situation back home.
They also stated that they paid around Rs 50,000 to fishermen who dropped them on the fourth island off Arichal Munai within Indian waters. “Many more families are finding ways to flee to India due to the acute shortage of food and fuel, and lack of income”, they added.
“We don’t know who takes us here or who sends us here. We got this person’s contact through a relative of ours. There were not many boats on that shore, but there was only one boat waiting for us”, another woman said.
According to reports, India had extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka, which is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, on March 17. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had also said that the government would work with the International Monetary Fund to manage the crisis.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)