Friday, March 30, 2012

Sri Lankan Tamil Repatriates in Andamans: Will justice be done?


Port Blair, March 29: Much has been talked about the Sri Lankan Tamil 
Repatriates over the years, who were brought by the Govt. of India 
decades ago as ‘rubber plantation workers’. 

These repatriates were settled in a tribal land at Katchal, Central Nicobars 
where they worked hard to create a plantation and struggled to survive 
with whatever the 
received out of it. Unfortunately unlike other settler communities in 
the islands, the Sri Lankan Repatriates were always an eye sore to the 
A&N Administration and Govt. of India. They were neither given a setter 
status nor allotted any land. Moreover being settled in a tribal land, 
these repatriates could not even claim for the plantations they were 
looking after for decades.

Their situation had gone to such an extent that the Deputy Commissioner, 
Nicobar had even denied them ‘Tribal Pass’ to go to their plantation, if 
at all they came out of the tribal land for any reason.

As the population of the repatriates grew in number, with 
inter-marriages among the Indian Tamils and Repatriates and also other 
settlers, the politicians eyed them as a vote bank. There were 
sympathies from the Tamil community of A&N Islands, which also attracted 
more politicians.

Over the years there were various plans chalked out to re-settle this 
community. Land was identified, projects were designed but unfortunately 
till date nothing has been implemented on the ground.

“In order to relocate Sri Lankan Tamil repatriates from the Tribal area 
of Katchal and re-settlement at Shaithan Khari Rubber Plantation, a 
survey of persons of Sri Lankan Tamil origin was carried out. In 2009, 
the Rubber Board conveyed their “No objection” for transferring the land 
at Shaitan Khari back to A&N Administration along with existing 77 work 
men already employed in the plantation and subject to concurrence of 
Ministry of Commerce & Industry”, said the Minister of State, Ministry 
of Home Affairs Shri Mullappally Ramachandran while answering to a 
question raised by the Member of Parliament, Shri Bishnu Pada Rau.

The MOS further said, “The proposal also envisaged development of the 
plantation in a phased manner by re-planning on a cost sharing basis 
between the A&N Administration (50%) Rubber Board (43%) and the 
beneficiaries (7%) by way of labour. One more proposal to resettle them 
in South Andaman and North & Middle Andaman by locating an area of 98 
hectare deemed forest land was also pursued”.

“The options were taken up with the authorities concerned. In the 
meantime, the settlers filed a writ petition in the Hon’ble High Court 
of Calcutta siting in circuit at Port Blair claiming for land and other 
issues. The matter is subjudice”, the MOS added

In 2003 in a meeting held in Raj Niwas, it was decided that the Deputy 
Commissioner, Nicobar and Director, Agriculture may formulate a definite 
package for shifting the families to Shaitan Khari. They may also plan 
an income generating scheme with suitable provisions for intercropping 
at least in the initial stage of plantation. With no outcome of such 
meetings and assurances, what else could have been a better solution 
than filing a Writ Petition in the court of law
. Unfortunately the step 
taken by the repatriates too seems to be prolonging and the Andaman 
Administration getting a perfect reply to any and all questions raised 
in this regard. ‘The matter is subjudice’.

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