New Delhi: The Tamil Nadu government is all set to send aid to Sri Lanka, which will include 40,000 tons of rice, around 500 tons of milk powder and 30 tons of medicines, with the first shipment scheduled for next week. The island nation which is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, is seeing things only worsening with acute shortage of food, fuel and even vital drugs, being highly dependent on imports.
Commissioner for Rehabilitation in the Tamil Nadu government, Jessintha Lazarus, told India Ahead that a lot of public donations were also made for the aid to Sri Lanka. “We are planning for the shipments, and the first shipments should likely happen next week. There has been a lot of response from Tamil Nadu,” she said.
Sri Lanka is witnessing massive protests which even turned violent with clashes between anti-government protestors and pro-government groups amid concerns over how the government will supply essentials to its people. The country has previously received economic aid from India and it seems that it would continue to need it.
The new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, sworn in on May 12 days after the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, said he looked forward to closer ties with India during his term and thanked India for its economic assistance to the country.
The Centre had earlier this month accepted the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to send aid to Sri Lanka. To the state government’s proposal of sending humanitarian assistance to Tamil communities in Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said the government of Sri Lanka will accept inclusive relief on government-to-government basis.
The Indian state, which will be sending aid, has also received 75 Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing the economic crisis. Sri Lankan Tamils make up 18 per cent of the population in the country, mainly concentrated in the north and east of the island, making the largest ethnic minority, The majority population are the Sinhalese, constituting around 74 per cent of the population.
Lazarus told India Ahead that while the proposal by the state government is aimed at relief for the Tamil communities, it was decided that the aid would go to all in need “considering the situation there and that everybody is suffering, the government has taken a call not to discriminate and to send it for everybody”.
But Paul Divakar, chairperson of Asia Dalit Rights forum, says the worry is the aid will not reach those who are most in need. “It was observed that after the Sri Lankan tsunami (in 2004), those sections of people who were already discriminated were not even counted for receiving aid. They did not receive it then, and we fear the same things will happen again.”
The forum also released a statement calling on civil society organisations and humanitarian aid organisations to ensure that aid reaches those “most vulnerable like the communities discriminated on work and descent i.e. Plantation workers and specifically address the concerns of the children, women and persons with disabilities within these communities”.
It also sought that the Tamil Nadu and Central government setup a Monitoring Mechanism involving civil society organisations and parliamentarians to track the support and its reach to vulnerable communities.
It points out that while the impact of the economic crisis is felt across all corners of the island, it is the women, children, person with disabilities, daily-wage earners, those dependent on micro, small and medium enterprises, the urban working poor, plantation workers, Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD), who are the worst affected by this deepening crisis.