When The Sunday Leader interviewed R. Sampanthan a week ago, the TNA leader claimed that of the 50,000 houses the Government of India had donated to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka, only 50 had been fully completed.
“According to our sources, when the Indian Foreign Secretary visited last month, only 50 houses had been completed,” he said.
When contacted, the TNA claimed that the primary cause for the delay has been that lists of beneficiaries have been manipulated by Government Ministers.
“The Indian Government wanted the houses to be given to the most deserving people. But the list of beneficiaries was not being determined in a fair way,” said a TNA MP on condition of anonymity.
The 50,000 housing project was announced by the Indian Government during President Rajapaksa’s visit to India in June last year.
The Indian High Commission in Sri Lankan has stated that construction on housing that is presently ongoing is part of a pilot project for 1,000 houses. They have also refuted claims that only 50 houses have been completed.
Informed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Indian agencies had been appointed to carry out the construction of these 1,000 houses, on 27 sites across the five Northern districts.
They explained that, “Most construction is taking place in fairly remote areas, and they are working under very difficult conditions.”
Expectations are that the houses will be handed over early next year, when construction is completed on all houses.
“We want to hand over a house that is complete in all aspects,” they said, adding that this would include auxiliary roads and other basic facilities.
They also said that “Identification of beneficiaries has been on the basis of criteria agreed upon by both Governments. The essential criteria are that they should be landless people. Priority will also be given to those who are unable to construct houses on their own. Currently, construction is being carried out on land provided by the Government of Sri Lanka.”
When questioned regarding the remaining 49,000 houses that make up the entire project, The Sunday Leader was told that in most of the cases, the people will build their own houses through grant assistance provided by the Government of India.
“The indication given is that most [beneficiaries] will be able to build the houses themselves,” sources said.
However, they also added that the requirement for houses was a serious need of the moment, and that this requirement went much beyond what the Indian Government is presently doing.