MULLIVAIKKAL: The people of Mullivaikkal West, whose ancestral homes and farms had borne the brunt of the fighting in the final horrendous days of Eelam War IV, have begun to eke out a modest living. But freedom still eludes them, being under constant and stringent surveillance by the State Intelligence services looking for signs of an LTTE revival.
Local farmers told Express that not all cultivable lands had been handed back by the authorities, who claimed that they were still to be cleared of mines. “We were brought back from the refugee camps in 2012, but we could start cultivation only in 2013, and that too, only on land released by the army. IOM (International Organization of Migration) helped us clear the land for cultivation and the Red Cross gave us some seeds. There is no irrigation. And on top of it, the army has told us not to use some wells. Electricity was given to the area only last month. With the result, the yield is only a fraction of what we used to get,” farmer C P Rajasingham said. The farmers approached the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) ruled by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) but were told that the NPC was short of funds.
Returnees find the pervasive surveillance irksome. “We are questioned immediately after NGOs or outsiders talk to us. Land has to be cleared under army watch. We cannot dig even a well without army permission and presence,” said K Thaya.
Indebtedness is the order of the day. Kirushnanantham had taken a loan of `3 lakh (USD 2,230) to complete her house. In addition, she had taken loans from microfinance companies for her poultry farm at a whopping interest of 29 per cent.
“Government banks ask for guarantees and collaterals but we have none. So we go to the microfinance companies,” she explained.
Lack of employment opportunities has made the men wastrels and drunkards, putting the burden of earning on the women, Kirushnanantham said On top of it, 56 of the 193 households are headed by women.
Ganesalingam, a poor fisherman of Salambam, complained that Chinese trawlers make a clean sweep of the fish, leaving locals with precious little.