CHENNAI: Afew weeks after assuming office of Chief Minister for the third term, J Jayalalithaa took a policy decision to extend all welfare schemes implemented by the Tamil Nadu government to the Lankan Tamil refugees living in the 114 camps across the State.
This was announced in the Governor’s address on June 3, 2011. Since then, the CM has taken several steps to ensure that Lankan Tamil refugees are treated on par with those living in Tamil Nadu.
The CM has also vehemently taken up with the Centre the cause of Lankan Tamils affected by the internal conflict in the island nation. She pressured the Centre to support the US-backed resolution on accountability issues when it came up for voting in March in the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC). After much deliberation, the Centre supported the US-backed resolution, mainly because of the concerted efforts taken by Jayalalithaa.
On March 24 this year, the CM allocated `25.62 crore for improving basic amenities in the camps, scholarships to children of refugees pursuing higher studies, and for giving one-time grants of `10,000 to the women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) run by the refugees. While `4.33 crore was allocated for improving the drinking water facilities in refugees camps, `20.66 crore has been granted for improving basic amenities like providing street lights, constructing kitchens, additional lavatories and bathrooms, community halls, ration shops, libraries and for repairing the roads. As many 416 SHGs functioning in the camps will get `10,000 each as one-time grant. The scholarship amount to be provided to students pursuing various disciplines of higher studies is as follows: BA - `1,200 per year; B.Sc. - `1,250; MA. - `1,330; M.Sc. - `1,650; diploma in technical education - `850; B.E. - `2,750; MBBS - `4,700; BVSc - `1,400; B.L. - `860 and B.Sc Agri - `2,850. As many as 1,000 students will be benefited by this measure. She also extended the Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme to the Lankan Tamils refugees and their family members.
When US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called on her at Fort St George, on July 20, J Jayalalithaa took up the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils languishing in camps. As an immediate reaction, the Lankan government sent Sri Lankan High Commissioner at New Delhi Prasad Kariyawasam to meet Jayalalithaa. During the discussions, the CM reiterated that Sri Lanka should do the needful to rehabilitate the displaced Tamils. She impressed upon him the need to sent the refugees back to their native places soon.
When the Centre decided to send a delegation of Indian MPs to Lanka to examine the rehabilitation of the internally displaced Tamils, Jayalalithaa pulled out her party’s representative from the delegation stating that the visit would be a mere formality aimed at creating an opinion in favour of the island nation. The DMK soon followed suit.