Pointing out that the Lankan authorities were adopting a pressure tactic of confiscating trawlers while arresting the fishermen on the charges of poaching, the federation said the island nation had detained more than 50 boats while releasing the fishermen and urged the Centre to secure the release of the boats or provide compensation to damaged boats. Swamy Pranavanandar of Vivekananda Kudil, who has been championing the cause of Rameswaram fishermen for more than two decades, inaugurated the one-day conference.M.C. Kumaresan, president, ‘Kadal Thozhilalar Munnetra Sangam’ declared open the conference by hoisting the flag and P.S. Sethupathy Nattar, Coordinator of a fishermen association, unveiled the replica of a proposed memorial pillar.The federation proposed to build it at Thangachimadam or Pamban in the island in memory of the fishermen who had fallen victims to tsunami and other calamities and to the firings of Lankan navy. Adopting a resolution at the fifth State conference in Rameswaram, the federation said 548 fishermen have died either by falling into the sea by accident while fishing or shot dead by the Lankan navy since 1983 and these families were at a crossroads after losing the breadwinners. An Indian fishermen’s rights group claims over 500 Indian fishermen have died in Sri Lankan waters since 1983.The ‘Fishermen right to livelihood federation’ urged the Centre and State governments in India to provide compensation to the families of fishermen who drowned and were killed by the Sri Lankan navy while fishing on the high seas, The Hindu newspaper reported. Another resolution said the fisheries sector had contributed more in food production and foreign exchange earnings than the agriculture sector but still the Centre had not come forward to establish a separate ministry for the fisheries.As per the Mandal Commission recommendations, the Centre should include the fishing community in the list of scheduled tribes, the federation said and appealed to reserve exclusive Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies for the voices of the fishing community to echo in Assemblies and Parliament.