The Menik Farm camp for the war displaced Tamils of the Northern Province, which now houses about 6,000 persons, will close in two months.
“What will then do,” asked one of the residents of the camp, as the Indian joint Parliamentary delegation, led by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, swept through the camp this morning for a first-hand study of the situation in the camp. The camp, which soon after the war housed about 2.94 lakh Internally Displaced Persons, is now home to very few who still have no place to go. Some of them, while saying that they wanted to get out of the camp, were not sure how to make a living outside.
“In such a small time, we have resettled 300,000 people,” said Basil Rajapaksa, Minister for Economic Development. Mr.Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan Minister of Economic Development, took the team around some of the projects where reconstruction work was undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka in the north.
The IDPs mainly raised two issues – employing their own choice of words. One, related to housing once they are asked to leave the camp. They are not part of the 50,000 houses that the Indian Government is assisting in building, nor are they part of any other scheme. “From my interactions, I come to the conclusion that these people did not have homes even earlier,” said T.K.Rangarajan CPI (M).
It did not matter at that point of time since there was some way to find a livelihood. Now the issue is one of finding livelihood too. In some ways, this is the story of the entire north: the issue of shelter, and that of livelihood. The problem gets compounded because the Army is intricately involved in economic activity in the North.
In a resettled area in Puliyankulam, the team interacted with people. They also handed over bicycles, a school, equipment to a hospital and benefits to people across the various stops. It was not a government Minister that handed these out, it was Ms.Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition. This came in for a lot of commendation from the Sri Lankan civil society.