Lok Sabha polls | Association calls for political parties to address issues of Sri Lankan repatriates in the Nilgiris

The 25 lakh hill country Tamils, constitute the single biggest demographic that could determine victory in the Nilgiris Parliamentary constituency, a press release from the Vivasayigal Thozhilalargal Munnetra Sangam said

April 16, 2024 03:35 pm | Updated 03:36 pm IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM

A tea estate worker in Gudalur. File photograph

A tea estate worker in Gudalur. File photograph | Photo Credit: SATHYAMOORTHY M

The Vivasayigal Thozhilalargal Munnetra Sangam (VTMS) has called upon political parties to address the “suffering” of more than 25 lakh Sri Lankan repatriates, otherwise called Indian-origin hill country Tamils, demanding that they be represented in Parliament.

In a press release, M.S. Selvaraj and V. Ramakrishnan, the state coordinator and district president of VTMS, stated that the repatriated constitute the single biggest demographic that could determine victory in the Nilgiris Parliamentary constituency.

As the community comprises of mostly plantation workers and poor farmers, the VTMS has called on the government to redistribute land to the workers, ensuring that each family gets at least three acres of land, and loans for agriculture. “The government order 1168 which prohibits the grant of pattas in hilly districts should be repealed. Arrangements should be made to give land to the landless here,” the VTMS said.

The organisation also said that rehabilitation assistance promised under the Sirimavo-Shastri Pact, which was not properly made available to the communities, should be provided and that the Central and State governments should form a high-level committee to study what assistance needs to be provided.

TANTEA losses

The organisation also said that the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation (TANTEA), which has suffered losses, is being systematically closed down, with 265 hectares of tea plantations having been handed over to the Forest Department by the AIADMK government. The VTMS is, in this case, referring to the handing over of TANTEA land that is not being cultivated, which the Forest Department and government insist is a necessary step to minimise negative human-elephant interactions in the region, which have been on the rise due to the destruction of forests and expansion of agriculture and human settlements into elephant habitats in Gudalur and Pandalur.

“Similarly, the present government has taken action to convert 2,152 hectares of tea plantations into forests through Order No. 173 of 2022...This order should be quashed in its entirety. What is mentioned in Ordinance 173 is untrue and unscientific. To say that a steep unproductive area is an area of wildlife conflict is unacceptable. Wild animals come to all areas as there is no food in the forests under the control of the Forest Department,” the organisation alleged.

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