The State government will spend Rs. 12 crore immediately to improve basic amenities in the Sri Lankan Tamils refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. Ministers and District Collectors will visit 115 camps in the State and present their findings on their condition to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi by November 10 . On the basis of the feedback, the government will work out the modalities for the expenditure of Rs. 12 crore.

These decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by Mr. Karunanidhi on Monday. Eleven Ministers and senior government officials attended. Briefing reporters of the decisions taken at the meeting, K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, the Handlooms, Textiles and Backward Classes Minister, said the Chief Minister clearly conveyed to the Ministers and officers that the refugees should be regarded as Tamils and not merely as refugees.

Mr. Ramachandran said 73,241 persons belonging to 19,340 families were living in 115 camps in 26 districts. There were 31,802 persons of 11,288 families living outside the camps with approval.

After the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government took over in May 2006, a scheme to improve amenities was drawn up on the basis of a visit by Ministers to the camps. The scheme, envisaging works for Rs. 16 crore, was sent to the Centre. As the Centre’s clearance had not been received, the State government itself set apart Rs. 5 crore for 2009-2010. The Minister denied suggestions that some refugees were being harassed in special camps. On questions about the release of those refugees who were booked in petty cases, he assured reporters that he would apprise the Chief Minister of the issue.

He explained how the DMK regime had doubled the cash dole to refugees and improved facilities and concessions given to them. In 2005-2006, the budget provision for the Rehabilitation Department was Rs. 25.78 crore; it was Rs. 44.62 crore last year. This year a sum of Rs. 55.34 crore had been earmarked.

M.K. Stalin, Deputy Chief Minister; K. Anbazhagan, Finance Minister; Arcot N. Veeraswami, Electricity Minister; K.S. Sripathi, Chief Secretary; K. Gnanadesikan, Principal Secretary (Finance); D. Jothi Jagarajan, Public Secretary; M. Mutia Kalaivanan, Rehabilitation Commissioner; and Jaffar Sait, Inspector General of Police (Intelligence), were among those who participated in the meeting.