PHDT making slow but steady progessJune 8, 2012, 8:46 pm
By Hiran H. Senewiratne
The Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT), incorporated under the Companies Act, to assists estate workers to enjoy better lifestyles, is now making slow progress due to the phasing out of major donor assistance.
"Our aim is to improve productivity in the regional plantation companies, mainly housing projects. We are making some progress slowly but steadily to improve the quality of life of planatation workers, PHDT Director General Ranjith Ellegala told The Island.
He said with the phasing out by donor agencies, mainly Norway and the Netherlands, they were able to complete only 10 percent of their housing projects in the plantation areas, but another 150,000 houses or 80 percent needed to be constructed. "It will take another several years for this to be completed as they construct only 3500 houses per annum," he said.
At present they serve over 400 estates. Those estates have a resident population of over 912,110 and they are attached to 41 regional plantation companies. These houses should be built to retain the youth in the plantation sector to prevent labour shortages, Ellegala said.
"We could construct only 10 per cent of the total housing requirement and making slow progress due to the phasing out of donor assistance. But, the government has decided to construct 50,000 houses per year to cater to the poor masses. This includes the estate sector as well," Ellegala said.
According to recent research, most of the Regional Plantation Companies face a shortage of labour due to various reasons. Most of the estate youth dislike working on estates due to the lack of dignity attached to it. They move to Colombo and other urban areas to find new jobs, he said.
The PHDT is now working towards creating a good working environment in their respective estates to stop these youth from leaving the estates. This will prevent a labour shortage in the plantation sector, Ellegala said.
With these improvements, estate residents have developed new values in life. Children have a better environment for studies. Somehow, the Trust carry on their functioning with the help of government and also some donor agencies funds like UNICEF and ILO, he said.
They have also launched a programme to end child labour. Alcohol and drug demand reduction programmes had also assisted in giving a better educational facilities for the estate children.
The Trust assists the workers to obtain loan facilities from the Housing Development Finance Corporation. Electricity obtained through loan schemes and investments on radios and televisions have also added value to the quality of life.
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