Several Sri Lankan Tamils housed at the refugee camps at Kottapattu and Vazhavanthankottai in Tiruchi district have expressed a desire to be granted Indian citizenship.
This was a common demand aired, by many refugees, before the Transport Minister K.N. Nehru who visited both the camps on Tuesday for an assessment of the conditions there. The inspection comes close on the heels of a high level meet convened by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to discuss the conditions at the refugee camps for Sri Lankan Tamils on Monday.
The refugees told the Minister that most of them have been living at the camps as refugees for over two decades and it was time they were given Indian citizenship. About 3,370 persons of 931 families were living at the two camps. The Minister pointed out to them that the Chief Minister had already taken up the demand with the Centre on their behalf.
Apart from this, the refugees put forward a plethora of demands, some orally and others in written petitions. Their main demands included the issue of identity cards to refugees at the camps, who have not got the same so far, the issue of standardised refugee certificates for educational purposes, job opportunities for women in the camps and liberal educational assistance for their children. Police verification at the camps should be held once a month. They also sought Integrated Child Development Centres at the camps and inclusion of the refugee families under the Kalaignar Health Insurance Scheme for Life Saving Treatments.
The refugees sought better amenities at the camps and repairs to the houses. When they sought repairs to the electrical wiring in the houses, Mr. Nehru was informed by the officials that the government has sanctioned Rs.10.91 lakh this financial year for repairing and refurbishing the electrical wiring at the houses in both the camps.
Some refugees at the Kottapattu camp sought a couple of borewells and Mr. Nehru ordered the sinking of a borewell immediately by the Corporation, which started the work later. He also directed the Corporation to repair the Poultry Farm Road, an access road running adjacent to the camp.
At Vazhavanthankottai, he ordered the opening of a part-time ration shop immediately and also the construction of a building for it with an allocation of Rs. 2 lakh from the MLAs Local Area Development Fund of K.N. Sekaran, Tiruverambur MLA, who was also present on the occasion.
He ordered the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation to operate a town bus service from Chathram Bus Stand to the Vazhavanthankottai camp, from Tuesday evening, to cater to the needs of commuting students.
Mr. Nehru told the refugees he would compile their representations and submit a report to the Chief Minister.
MLA R. Rani, District Revenue Officer V. Dakshinamurthy, Mayor S.Sujatha, Corporation Commissioner T.T.Balsamy, Deputy Mayor M.Anbazhagan, and officials of various government departments accompanied the Minister.