India said it will continue to work for the development of Indian-origin Tamil community

India on Saturday handed over 1000 houses to the Indian-origin Tamil community in Sri Lanka’s plantation areas on the occasion of Pongal.

As many as 4000 houses are being constructed with grant assistance from India in plantation areas, spread across seven districts of Sri Lanka, under this phase for the estate workers in Sri Lanka, said a statement of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

The house keys to beneficiaries were handed out at a public event in Kotagala jointly by Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Minister of Development Co-ordination, Namal Rajapaksa and Minister of State for Estate Housing and Community Infrastructure, Jeevan Thondaman.

Members of Parliament SB Dissanayake and M Rameshwaran and other dignitaries took part in the event.

Speaking on the occasion, High Commissioner Baglay conveyed Pongal greetings in Tamil.

He stressed that India will stand with Sri Lanka and continue to work for the development of Indian origin Tamil community.

The Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka noted that the community was an organic link between India and Sri Lanka and underlined that the Festival of Pongal represented shared civilizational ties between the two countries.

According to the Indian High Commission, out of the total 4000 houses, around 3000 houses have already been handed over to beneficiaries till date and handing over of close to 750 houses is being scheduled under this phase.

Remaining houses are at various stages of implementation, it added.

Noting that the Indian Housing Project is a flagship development assistance programme in Sri Lanka which is being carried out in different phases, the statement informed that 46,000 houses were built or repaired in Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka in the first two phases.

Another 10,000 houses shall be constructed in the plantation areas in the next phase. This would take Government of India’s overall commitment under the project to 60,000 houses, it added.

The statement also said that the dignitaries took part in a traditional ‘Maatu Pongal’ ceremony prior to the handing over event, which was attended by thousands and featured cultural performances.

Celebration of Pongal in Sri Lanka attests to the abiding cultural linkages between the people of India and Sri Lanka as well as the shared heritage, it mentioned.

Development assistance is a key pillar of bilateral relationship between the two countries, the statement said.

At a total quantum of around USD 3.5 billion, development assistance from India cuts across sectors spanning from infrastructure development to all aspects of daily human lives such as education, health, livelihood, among others, it maintained.

Estate workers from plantation areas have been at the centre of such assistance and several projects implemented through grant assistance by Government of India including the 150-bed hospital in Dickoya, multi-purpose hall in Saraswathy Central College in Pussellawa etc reinforce India’s ongoing focus on the region under the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, it said.