SL repatriates in Araku left to fend for themselvesMay 27, 2012, 11:19 pm
VISAKHAPATNAM, May 25, 2012: The Sri Lankan repatriates of Indian origin rehabilitated in the coffee plantations in the Araku Valley and Chintapalle agency areas are nobody’s children. They are living like second class citizens despite the Indian government granting them citizenship. Nobody owns them, neither the state government, nor the local community and not even the Maoists.
They are not covered under any of the State government schemes including the Indiramma housing scheme. The only consolation after dumping them in the agency area was provision of wage employment to them in the coffee estates in the agency areas in the district.
Despite the community integrating with the local tribal community during the past 35 years, there are still viewed as non-locals. Being originally members of Scheduled Caste community, the benefits of Scheduled Tribe community were not applicable to them. The Land Transfer Regulation Act too is not on their side as they were not given ST status. Being non-locals they were not entitled to own any properties including lands or houses in the very places they had been living for 35 years.
The Maoists recently drove away two women repatriates from Lankapakalu village in Gudem Kothaveedhi mandal on the grounds that they were not tribals. The Maoists while giving a call to the local tribal communities to occupy the lands of coffee plantations were warning the repatriates community against occupying tribal lands on the ground that they are not scheduled tribes. Most of the children of the repatriates were stopping with secondary education.
Only a handful of them are graduates and none is pursuing higher education. The conservative Tamil community is unable to find suitable brides and grooms for their children. At present, 62 families with 200 members are living in their rehabilitation colonies at R.V. Nagar, Vagasara and Minumuluru near Paderu. Their number over the years dwindled from 200 families to 62 families due to their feeling like fish out of the water.
Sri Lanka and India signed the Sirimavo-Shastri Pact to rehabilitate the stateless people of 9.75 lakh people of Tamil origin in India. The pact later was amended as Sirimavo-Indira Gandhi Pact. As part of the pact, India agreed to give citizenship to 5.25 lakh of them and rehabilitate them in different states of India. The remaining stateless Tamils had been given Sri Lankan citizenship and were rehabilitated in their tea estates.
The 5 lakh-odd Sri Lankans of Indian origin had been distributed for rehabilitation in several states including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In the process, 200 families had been sent to Araku Valley agency area where the AP Forest department had rehabilitated them in the coffee estates due to their rich experience as workers in the tea estates of Sri Lanka. Subsequently the forest department handed them over to the Andhra Pradesh Forest Development Corporation (APFDC).
S. Subramanyan, a repatriate living in R.V. Nagar, says that their plight had has been miserable as they were treated as foreigners despite possessing Indian Citizenship. All welfare schemes of the state government have eluded them. M. Subbamma of Lankapakala bemoaned that they were driven away by the Maoists from the village. The 200 odd members of the repatriate community are urging the district Collector to find ways and means to cover them under all government welfare schemes and save their community from further misery. (The Hindu)
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