Rome leaves boat owner helpless

Italy’s backtracking from its assurance that its marines will return to India has dashed the dream of the owner of the ill-fated fishing boat and the eight survivors of the shooting incident to begin a new life from the compensation which they are entitled to.

Since the incident on February 15, 2012, they have been slogging at their native village of Poonthura, a typical fishermen hamlet in Tamil Nadu bordering Kerala.
If the marines were found guilty in India, they could have demanded compensation.

“If the case is tried here, the boat owner can claim compensation for the period during which the boat is kept in judicial custody being crucial evidence and the survivors for their inability to be engaged in work due to the mental condition inflicted by the shocking incident. If the trial were in Kollam, it would have been convenient for them,’’ said Mohan Raj, the prosecutor who appeared in the case at Kollam district court.  

Being haunted by the memories of the ghostly night, the eight fishermen haven’t been into sea after the tragic episode. The surviving boatmen – Kinserian, Martin, Hilari,
Francis, Clement, Johnson, Muthappen and Michel Antony — and their families live on the pittance given occasionally by boat owner Freddy and meagre income form angling.

The incident and the legal tangles have put young Freddy in a tight spot. Italy paid him a compensation of Rs 17 lakh for his boat. He spent Rs 7 lakh for bringing the bullet-ridden boat from the mid-sea to the Neendakara fishing harbour and for the initial legal expenses, he told Deccan Herald over phone.    

He tried his best to release the boat from the custody of the court. The court asked him to furnish a bond for Rs 20 lakh and security of two persons of the like amount.

He should produce the boat at Neendakara coastal police station at every fourth day.
The bond amount was unaffordable to him and last condition was impracticable. So he gave up.  

The boat was moored near the Neendakara coastal police station. Exposed to rain and sun, the boat sunk one day. Under the police pressure, he paid the bill of retrieving it.
“Now worth only for scrap, it can hardly fetch Rs 50,000,” Freddy said.

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