South Asia

Pakistan launches Mannar housing project

Pakistan has launched a housing project in Mannar, where India is currently building 6,000 homes for families displaced during Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Qasim Qureshi recently handed over a cheque of $1 million to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Minister of Industries and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen for the project to build 220 homes in Mannar, a coastal district in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.

Pakistan — a vocal supporter of Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council — has also assured Sri Lanka of all possible support in future, a press statement said.

While attempts to get further details of the project from the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo proved futile, Mr. Bathiudeen on Tuesday told The Hindu that each family would be given a sum of LKR 5,50,000 (approximately Rs.2.6 lakh).

“The model is exactly like the Indian housing project’s owner-driven model where the same amount is given to the beneficiary in instalments, at different stages of progress,” he said. The owner of the home builds it.

While India has roped in agencies such as the U.N. Habitat to help implement it in different villages, Pakistan will hand over the money to the Sri Lankan government which, in turn, will disburse it through local government agents.

Allocation of homes

On the allocation of homes, Mr. Bathiudeen said a predominantly Muslim village is to be covered first in Pakistan’s project but “we are including some Sinhala and Tamil families too.”

Mannar has a unique ethnic and religious composition, though it is inhabited by a majority of Tamil speakers.

The district is home to the province’s largest population of Muslims, thousands of whom were forcibly evicted by the LTTE in 1990. It has a sizeable Catholic population which is now eagerly awaiting the Pope’s visit in January, in addition to Hindus and a small percentage of Sinhala-speaking Buddhists.

The basis of allocation for different housing schemes has remained a challenge here. Recently, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph alleged that the Indian housing scheme had ignored some of the most vulnerable families.

“The process is highly politicised and the people who need it the most do not get a house,” he told The Hindu. Officials of the Indian High Commission, when contacted, said they were not aware of such a complaint.

India has completed 2,000 homes of the 6,000 homes allocated to Mannar, as part of its flagship housing programme of building 50,000 houses in Sri Lanka, primarily covering the Tamil-majority Northern Province and the Central Province where the Indian origin Tamil community engaged in the plantation sector resides.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 10:47:13 PM |

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