The first model village, built with Indian assistance in the Gampaha district of Sri Lanka under the model village programme of the Housing and Construction and Cultural Affairs Ministry of the Government of Sri Lanka, was inaugurated on July 6, 2019. Completed houses were handed over to the beneficiaries at a special event organised to mark the inauguration ceremony. Sri Lankan Housing and Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister Sajith Premadasa, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Acting Indian High Commissioner Dr.Shilpak Ambule along with several other politicians and high-ranking officials graced the occasion.
Government of India has partnered with the Sri Lankan Ministry of the Housing and Construction and Cultural Affairs to build 100 model villages consisting of a total of 2400 houses all across Sri Lanka under Indian grant assistance of SLR 1200 million. As part of this commitment, India-Sri Lanka signed two Memoranda of understanding (MoU) on October 26, 2017 for the construction of 600 houses in Southern Province of Sri Lankaunder the Gram Shakthi housing project and 600 houses under Model Village housing project in 25 districts of Sri Lanka, using Indian grant assistance of Sri Lankan Rupees 600 million.
The houses are being built using the owner driven model with technical support and financial assistance from Government of India. Cash grants of SLR 5 Lakhs are provided to low income, landless and homeless beneficiaries in five instalments, linked to the stages of construction of the houses. These projects are in addition to the government of India’s commitment to construct 50000 houses for the Internally Displaced People in the North and East and 10000 houses for the beneficiaries in the plantation sector, MoUs for which were signed in June 2010 and May 2017 respectively.
The two governments also signed a MoU on July 14, 2017 to construct 153 houses, a multipurpose community building and small alms hall, internal water supply system, renovation of Monk quarters and Library in the Sobitha Thero Village in Anuradhapura under the Indian assistance of SLR 300 million.
According to Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjeet Singh Sandhu, Sri Lanka ‘houses’ the largest grant project ever undertaken by India in any country abroad.
India has undertaken more than 70 people-oriented development projects including the ongoing housing projects as well as projects in the fields of health, education, skill development, infrastructure, vocational training and so on. The overall development portfolio of Government of India in Sri Lanka is close to US$ 3billion out of which US$ 560 million are in grants.
For long there was a misperception about the Indian assisted projects in Sri Lanka that these projects are only meant for the wellbeing and development of the Tamils in the North and East. Immediately after the end of war, Government of India committed assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka for its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction programme for the war-torn areas. As a result, large chunk of Indian developmental projects concentrated in the north and eastern province of Sri Lanka, but in no way limited to these two provinces only. India extends its developmental, assistance as per the requirement and request of the Sri Lankan authority. In this context the Island wide 1990 free Emergency Ambulance Services under Indian assistance need special mention. The service was initially implemented in the Southern and Western provinces. Following its tremendous success, Government of Sri Lanka requested India to extend a country wide service, which was readily accepted by Government of India. India has committed Line of Credit of around US$ 1.3 billion for development of railway sector in Sri Lanka.
Indian projects are often being criticised for not being able to deliver on time. To address this concern, Indian assisted projects are enabled by a MoU signed with the Government of Sri Lanka to implement Small Development Projects. Through this framework, the overall implementation processes are made more compact. A large number of projects undertaken with GoI’s assistance have been now on schedule and some are ahead of schedule.
Script: Dr. Gulbin Sultana, Research Analyst, IDSA