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The Search for the Missing Malpe Fishermen

On 13th December 2018, at 11 PM, eight fishermen left the Malpe port on board the Suvarna Thribuja (IND KA 02 MM4632)—a red coloured steel boat with a white top and blue base cabin, on a regular trip for deep sea fishing. Subsequently, these men were reported missing, on 22nd December.

The men aboard the boat were Chandrashekhar (40)—the owner of the boat, Damodara (40), Lakshman (45), Sathish (35), Harish (28), Ramesh (30), Jogaiah (40), and Ravi (27). The last recorded contact with the ill-fated boat was on 16th December, where they stated their location to be near the coast of Goa, after which all contact was lost. Nithyananth Kotian, a fisherman in the area, ventured out on another boat to try and regain contact with the missing crew. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in doing so. He then filed a missing complaint at the Coastal Security Police Station (CSP), Malpe on  22nd December. The CSP at Udupi was alerted immediately.

Suvarna Thribuja, the boat on which the eight fishermen set sail. Credits: The Hindu

State police chief Neelamani N. Raju has contacted the Joint Director (Internal Security) MHA, requesting him to take up the matter with the MoD, to receive help from the Navy in this search. Moreover, Coastal Security Police officers from Karnataka have visited Goa and Maharashtra—the location of the last recorded contact with the boat. The Coast Guard has also brought in their ships, hovercrafts, Dornier aircraft, and helicopters. They carried out a sea-air search in coordination with commercial ships and marine police boats for the missing boat. However, all attempts so far have returned futile.

Following an ultimatum issued on 31st December, fisherfolk of the three coastal districts of Karnataka—Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Uttara Kannada organised massive protests on Sunday, 6th January 2019. The protesters marched from the Malpe Fishing Harbour to National Highway 66, where they blocked the incoming traffic for about three hours. The Animal Husbandry and Fisheries minister, Venkatarao Nadagouda, deemed the protests to not be a solution, despite being in support of the protestors.

Protestors from all over coastal Karnataka took to the streets on Sunday, 6th January.  Credits: The News Minute

After weeks of fruitless attempts, the concerned family and protestors, growing impatient, are sternly demanding for a solution. Satish Kunder, President of the Malpe Fishermen’s Association, has stated that this was the first missing boat case at the Malpe port. Daijiworld quoted Venkatarao Nadagouda as saying “If the boat had sunk, it would have left some trace; maybe a stain of diesel in the water or the debris of the boat floating around somewhere.” However, no evidence pointing towards such a scenario has been discovered as of yet. The authorities thus suspect that the boat was hijacked by pirates, and its crew is being held captive. As the police look into the case further, the nation is hoping and praying for the safe return of these fishermen.

Featured Image Credits: Coastal Digest