A recent news tucked on the inner pages of most of the Indian Dailies was simply startling. Some half pence Organisation with the nomenclature of International Transport Workers Federation has had the gumption of arresting a Shipping Vessel MALAVIYA SEVEN, flying the Indian Flag off the port city of Aberdeen, Scotland. On top of it, this so called United Kingdom’s (finding it so difficult to hold on to even Scotland) Maritime and Coastguard Agency MCA, has kept the vessel detained for quite a long period since 05 October 2016. This is in spite of the fact that most of the crew members have been on board the Vessel for over a year.
As per the reports received it seems that these Britishers due to their economic slowdown are trying to revert to their 16th Century methodologies of loot and plunder commonly known as piracy. It is said that MCA detained the Vessel under the Modern Slavery Act proclaimed this year by the Theresa May government. This pompous and outrageous law of theirs (they still have not come out of their hang over of Raj Days) permits their Law enforcement officers to board and search vessels, seize evidence and arrest offenders where it is suspected that modern slavery is taking place. This act just seems to be a new method of piracy.
As per MCA, the ship had no records of payment of wages to the crew, as if Britishers are so naïve that they do not know that such records are maintained by the Shipping Company that owns the vessel and not by the Captain of the Ship. Similarly MCA found that the ship was not carrying Seafarers employment Agreement. MCA also had problem with the very design and construction of the ship’s fire doors. Then they proceeded to issue arrest warrant and served it on the company in India last month, thus giving them 42 more days to keep the vessel as per their law.. 12 Indian crews are still on board under arrest. Then this ITWF claims that the company owes a total of $ 650000 as back wages to a total of 36 crew.
This episode is a shame for the Govt of India in general and MEA in particular. The whole incident reminds one of the Devyani Khobragade cases that had occurred in USA. That time MEA reacted as required and for the first time Americans realised that such games can be played by others too. So why there has been no action till date …….just because crew members are not MEA staffers?? Boarding of any Indian vessel authorised to fly an Indian flag by any out sider should be treated as an act of Piracy . In case such act is done by any armed agency of a country then it should be treated as an act of war. Unless before such boarding permission has been obtained from Indian authorities. We should not forget that now the Indian economy which was Rs 975000 crores ($150 billion) in 1991 is over $2 trillion today. No wonder all those who had earlier looted the world and grown fat will now once again try to revert to old tricks.
Ultimatum should be given to Madam Theresa to have the ship and the crew released forthwith. They can proceed with their case. Meanwhile the Mumbai based company GOL Offshore should be asked to file a case of unauthorised boarding and detention on ITWF and the British MCA in an Indian court. Our courts too must examine who is at fault. In case the company is at fault then due punishment will be given other wise India must press for action against ITWF and the MCA and make the UK govt pay compensation to the company.
The Britishers may try to ignore our request with those stiff upper lips of theirs. In that case Indian Coast guard must proceed and board all vessels flying British flag sailing in Indian waters and seize any violating even minor procedures of ours. Then we will see who plays what games for how long.
The Ministry of External Affairs must become much more proactive than what it is now. Today with roughly half of say even Tata Groups earning and investments are overseas based so we just cannot afford to ignore such acts. We got to defend our interests with diplomacy and if required back it with guns. Probably this month Nitin Gadkari too is visiting UK. His ministry must join the issue forthwith and slate it for amicable solution. However if UK tries to act in a clever manner then the option of cancelling the visit should not be ruled out. We too should learn to rub salt on the Britishers who must be feeling upset as now they have been displaced from list of first five economies of the World.