The second anniversary of Sri Lanka's victory over the LTTE nears, but the government is yet to provide a list of beneficiaries for the 50,000 houses that the Indian government is building for Tamils in the North.
The foundation for the pilot project, which envisages construction of 1,000 houses, was laid by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna last November. New Delhi has since asked Colombo for the list of beneficiaries.
“They gave us a list of 1,000 beneficiaries initially. This list was subsequently withdrawn. Then they gave us a fresh list of over 800 beneficiaries,” said an Indian official. The first list was reportedly withdrawn because a section of the Sri Lankan establishment had raised objections to some names.
Media reports and the lone Tamil Cabinet Minister, Douglas Devananda, sought to portray the inordinate delay as a problem with the Indian side. The Sunday Times quoted Mr. Devananda as saying India was mired in an execution problem involving contractors, who were also being influenced by elements in the Tamil National Alliance. The TNA has denied the allegation.
The Indian High Commission has come out with a strong statement: “The Government of India has appointed M/s Hindustan Prefab Limited and M/s RPP Infra Projects Limited as Project Management Consultants and Contractors respectively to execute and implement the Pilot Project for 1,000 houses which will be spread over all five districts of Northern Province. The contracted agencies have already mobilised necessary resources to undertake the Project. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Project will be completed as per schedule and the housing units will be handed over to beneficiaries during the latter half of the year.
“The Indian Housing Project, which is targeted to meet the bulk of the housing needs of IDPs in the foreseeable future, is being carried out in close consultation with and cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka. The two Governments have already agreed on their respective roles and responsibilities in respect of the Pilot Project through a formal Exchange of Letters between High Commissioner of India, H.E. Ashok K. Kantha and Secretary, Ministry of Finance & Planning, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera on 26 November 2010.
“In this connection, we await a list of beneficiaries for the Pilot Project from Government of Sri Lanka drawn up on the basis of norm-based and transparent selection criteria. Early availability of the list of beneficiaries will enable completion of critical project activities in a timely manner.
“It is our expectation that early implementation of the Pilot Project will also facilitate finalization of arrangements for undertaking construction of remaining 49,000 houses.”