The Indian Housing Project was launched on the ground in the Eastern Province today jointly by Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development and H.E. Ashok K. Kantha, High Commissioner of India. In events organized at three different locations in Batticaloa district, certificates were handed over to some of the selected beneficiaries. Hon. Basheer Segudawood, Minister of Productivity Promotion, Hon. M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Hon. V. Muralitharan, Deputy Minister of Resettlement, Hon. Rear Admiral (Retd.) Mohan Wijewickrama, Governor of Eastern Province, Hon. Najeeb Abdul Majeed, Chief Minister of Eastern Province and Hon. Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, former Chief Minister of Eastern Province were also present.
In his remarks on the occasion, Minister Basil Rajapaksa recalled the significant contribution of High Commissioner Kantha in initiating and implementing wide ranging projects of Indian assistance in the Northern and Eastern Provinces after the end of the war and, in particular, his steadfast commitment to ensuring the launch of the Housing Project. He highlighted how the Housing Project was indicative of the phased, timely and sequenced manner of India's development assistance to Sri Lanka which has been based on requirements on the ground. Minister Rajapaksa also pointed out that among donor-funded humanitarian assistance projects in Sri Lanka, the Indian Housing Project was unmatched and unprecedented in its scale, reach and impact. He underlined the critical role of Indian assistance in supporting the return of normalcy in the Province. Other dignitaries also thanked the Government of India for the assistance extended in resettlement and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka, especially through the Indian Housing Project.
In his address, High Commissioner Kantha reiterated the importance attached by India to support initiatives for early resettlement of displaced persons in Northern and Eastern Provinces and providing opportunities to enhance their livelihoods. He expressed satisfaction that projects of Indian assistance in Northern Province were progressing well and appreciated the support provided by local authorities in this regard. He noted that through the support of the government and the local community, the second phase of the Indian Housing Project for construction of 43,000 houses under the owner-driven model, which was launched in the Northern Province on 2 October 2012, was making good progress. More than 12,000 houses were already under construction and 10,000 houses were expected to be completed in the first year of the project. The High Commissioner assured that the target of completion of all the 50,000 houses to be constructed under the Project would be achieved within three years.
A total of 4,000 housing units are expected to be constructed in Eastern Province under the Indian Housing Project. Since 2009, India has also implemented other development assistance projects to the tune of SLR 1.1 billion (approx) in the Eastern Province. These projects include supply of boats and fishing equipment to fishermen of Vaharai, provision of five units of Rail-Bus to connect Batticaloa and Trincomalee, setting up of a Siddha Faculty at Trincomalee functioning under the Eastern University, setting up of twenty Nenashalas (E-learning centres) across the Eastern Province to promote IT literacy in rural areas, provision of 1,260 computers and 218 printers to 550 schools and colleges, setting up of Vocational Training Centres at Vantharamullai and Onthachimadam, training in self-employment for war-affected women in Batticaloa, supply of trishaws to war widows of Batticaloa and Ampara and setting up of an English language lab at Trincomalee as part of the Project to set up labs in each of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka.
The second phase of the Indian Housing Project adopts an owner-driven methodology, under which owner-beneficiaries are involved in the process of construction. A cash grant of LKR 550,000 (approx. INR 230,000) is being provided for construction of a new house in installments linked to progress in construction. A cash grant of up to LKR 250,000 (approx. INR 104,000) will be provided for repair of a housing unit based on actual assessment of damage.
To facilitate the construction of houses under this phase, the Government of India had earlier, through a competitive process, selected four reputed Implementing Agencies, viz., UN-Habitat, International Federation of Red Cross in partnership with Sri Lanka Red Cross, National Housing Development Agency of Sri Lanka and Habitat for Humanity. Beneficiaries under the Project are being selected through a transparent and norm-based process on the basis of clearly-defined and objective criteria. These beneficiaries will undertake the construction/repair of their houses with necessary technical assistance and support provided by the Implementing Agencies.
The Indian Housing Project, which aims to support resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs in Northern and Eastern Provinces, is part of Government of India's overall commitment to build 50,000 houses announced by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during the State visit of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in June 2010. The entire Project is fully funded by the Government of India with a total outlay of LKR 30.6 billion (INR 1,372 crore or approx. US $ 270 million) making it one of the largest grant assistance projects implemented by the Government outside India.
In order to ensure early operationalisation of this commitment, a Pilot Project under the agency-driven model involving construction of 1,000 houses was launched in April 2011 and successfully completed in July 2012. The third phase of the Housing project is expected to commence soon. In this phase, about 2,000 houses will be directly built by construction agencies for people from most vulnerable sections of IDPs in the Northern and Eastern provinces who are unable to build their own houses and 4,000 houses for workers in tea estates in the Central and Uva Provinces.
The Indian Housing Project is being carried out in close consultation with and cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 17 January 2012 between the two governments covering various aspects of project implementation.