New development body for hill-country Tamils in Sri Lanka

Background: Sri Lanka’s internal issues, Plantation sector in Sri Lanka, Hill-Country New Villages Development Authority, Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT).

  • The Sri Lankan govt has decided to set up a new development authority for the welfare of over one-million plantation community, which essentially comprises hill-country Tamils. To be called the Hill-Country New Villages Development Authority, the organisation will carry out functions of planning and coordination.
  • As per an official estimate, nearly one million people are residing in the estates, and the plantation sector, as a whole, provides direct and indirect employment to 1.5 million people. Around 40 percent of the residents of the estates belong to the category of non-workers.
  • The plantation sector (tea and rubber) contributed around 20 percent of export earnings of Sri Lanka, with $1.36 billion in 2015.
  • At present, the Plantation Human Development Trust (a body comprising representatives of the Sri Lanka government, regional plantation companies and trade unions) is in place. Set up in 1992, the PHDT’s mandate is to implement social development programmes for the community. However, it suffers from several handicaps such as limited scope and coverage, reliance on contributions of the plantation companies and the absence of coordination with other Ministries, departments and agencies.
  • Early this year, the government adopted a five-year action plan of $690 million for the economic, social and educational development of the community. The plan envisages to build 56,500 houses at an investment of about $575 million. The new Authority will implement the action plan as well.

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