Foundation stone for Mahatma Gandhi Centre laid in Matale


by S Venkat Narayan Our Special Correspondent

UPFA MP A. H. M. Azwer, outgoing Indian HC Ashok K. Kantha and his wife and Matale Mayor Hilmy Mohammed at the stone layng ceremony

NEW DELHI, April 25: The SLR 88.60-million Mahatma Gandhi International Centre in Matale in the Central Province, for which the foundation stone was laid on Monday, will be ready in one year. Fully funded by the Indian Government, the Centre will have an auditorium, library, and a conference hall to cater to the wider needs of the local community.

The foundation stone was laid by Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok K Kantha. The ceremony was held in the presence of Sri Lankan Minister of Livestock and Rural Community Development ArumuganThondaman, Deputy Minister of Economic Development AHM Azwar, Members of Parliament Muthu Sivalingam, and P Rajadurai, Minister of Tamil Education, Sports and Youth Affairs of the Central Provincial Council Anusha Sivarajah, Mayor of Matale Hilmy Mohammed, Assistant High Commissioner in Kandy A Natarajan , and members of the Mahatma Gandhi Sabha, Matale.

Speaking at the ceremony, High Commissioner Kantha appreciated the Matale Municipal Council for providing 80 perches of land to the Mahatma Gandhi Sabha for construction of the Centre. He emphasized that the spirituality flowing from all religions and communities will flourish at the Centre.

Kantha recalled that Mahatma Gandhi had visited Matale, Colombo, Kandy, NuwaraEliya, Badulla, Bandarawela, Hatton, Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, and Point Pedro during his three week-long visit to Sri Lanka in 1927. The Mahatma made at least 35 speeches to Sri Lankan audiences and also visited many schools, such as Trinity and Dharmaraja Colleges in Kandy, Zahira and Ananda Colleges in Colombo, and laid the foundation stone for a female education centre in Matale, now known as the Pakkiyam National College.

In their remarks, MuthuSivalingam, Azwar, the MPs as well as the Mayor of Matale thanked the Government of India for supporting this project and for India’s assistance for a number of other developmental projects including the flagship Indian Housing Project, Northern and Southern Railway Rehabilitation project, 150-Bed Base Hospital at Dickoya, Hatton, setting up of three Vocational Training Centres at Hatton, NuwaraEliya and Helboda, gifting of buses and 350 CEWET scholarships to assist students from the plantation areas, besides 440 other scholarships that enabled students to pursue their higher education in Sri Lanka and in India. They also spoke about Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings related to truth and non-violence and his visit to Sri Lanka in 1927, which fostered the friendship

between India and Sri Lanka.

The High Commissioner and his wife Sharmila also visited the Pakkiyam National College and paid homage to Gandhiji by garlanding his statue at the college.

India considers the Mahatma Gandhi International Centre special because Gandhiji had visited Matale in 1927, and laid the foundation stone for the Packiam National School. The Mahatma Gandhi Sabha was formed in 1948 immediately after Gandhiji’s death to spread his ideals and message of universal peace and brotherhood.

The Mahatma Gandhi Centre was constructed when the Matale Municipal Council leased about 80 perches of land to the Sabha in 1963. During the 1983 riots, the Centre was completely damaged.

The Mahatma Gandhi Sabha, Matale had submitted a Proposal in April 2011 for construction of a Mahatma Gandhi International Centre in the land allotted by the Municipal Council.

The project was approved by the External Resources Department of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and Planning to be taken up as a small development project to be implemented with Indian assistance. The Urban Development Authority prepared the architectural and engineering design for the project.

Tenders were invited subsequently and the work is being awarded to M/s Wahid Construction to execute the project.

Second phase of the Indian Housing Project for construction of 43,000 houses under the owner driven model was launched on 2nd October 2012, coinciding with the Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the third phase of Indian Housing Project, 4,000 houses will be constructed for the Central and Uva Provinces focusing on the estate people. This will be under agency-driven model and the Project Management Consultant has been appointed. It is planned to set up 40 townships in the estate areas each having 100 houses.

The 150 Bed Base Hospital at Dickoya, Hatton, being constructed under Indian grant assistance of SLR 1.20 billion is nearing completion. The civil structural work is already completed and ancillary works like installation of lift system, sewerage plant etc are being executed. Required equipment for the Hospital is being procured in consultation with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health, and is expected to be installed by August 2013.

India is offering about 350 CEWET scholarships to assist students from plantation areas. This is in addition to another 440 scholarships that benefit students to pursue their higher education in Sri Lanka and India. India will be spending SLR 2.50 billion towards these scholarships in the next three years.

India has assisted in the setting up of three Vocational Training Centres at Hatton, NuwaraEliya and Helboda at a cost of SLR 242 million.

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