Sanjay Prashar, chairman of the International Maritime Federation, has helped over 58 stranded Indian fishermen in Iran to be repatriated to their homes in 3 days, after close to a 5-month long wait.
The action taken by Prashar has now landed him the title of ‘Captain Lifeboat’ and the ‘Messiah of Seafarers’. The fishermen, of which 40 were from Tamil Nadu and 18 from Kerala were left behind during the process of repatriation about 680 fellow fishermen towards the end of June. The former group couldn’t return as they faced problems with their exit visas and the reluctance of their ex-employers to take them back.
Having not had a source of employment in the last 4 months following the COVID-19 pandemic, the fishermen reached over at Asaluyeh, about 1400km from Tehran. They lodged together in 3 rooms, not having the money to buy air tickets to India.
Following the Captain’s intervention, tickets were bought along with travel arrangements made from New Delhi to their home states. The charter flight from Tehran to New Delhi will land in the early hours of Wednesday, 15-July-2020. His contribution of approx. 17 lakhs has encouraged Shashi Tharoor (Congress leader) and V Muraleedharan (minister of state for external affairs) to step in too.
The engagement with the politicians ought to have happened earlier when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was asked by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K.Palaniswami to repatriate the fishermen. Having being left behind after INS Jalashwa couldn’t accommodate them, future efforts hit a wall until the fishermen’s union called Captain Prashar to aid them.
He traveled from Himachal Pradesh to meet the Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (cabinet minister for Jal Shakti) on the 6th of July, 2020 to accelerate the clearance of e-passes and other required logistics for repatriation.
Sanjay Prashar’s initiatives are for those Indian seafarers in the global seafaring community. With about 30,000 Indian sea workers making up 10% of the community, the numbers increase each year. However, companies that hire these men usually resort to deserting or illegally detaining the seamen to exploit them fro non-sea related jobs. In his predominantly one-man mission, the Captain lends a hand to the blindsided injustice occurring at sea.
In the months following lockdown and restrictions of Indian land borders, ports, and skies, Captain Sanjay Prashar has come to the aid of almost 700 seafarers returning from Doha and Colombo. He has previously lobbied for provisions for the rights of seafarers. In recent success, his efforts to get seafarers listed on MEA’s E-migrate portal to integrate emigration agencies into one portal which the seafarers were not a part of had been approved.
Prashar has also raised his voice to facilitate crew change and repatriation of over 20,000 stranded semen in various agencies like the Ministry of Shipping and the Directorate-general of Shipping among others.
“I want to do it because it is the need of the house for Indian seafarers,” he says.