COIMBATORE: Even though the hue and cry to ensure justice for Sri Lankan Tamils have been a recurring feature in the State’s politics for many decades now, their kith and kin right in our backyard continue to be neglected.
Come elections, almost every political party invariably blames its rivals for inaction during the Sri Lankan civil war. But, for around one lakh Sri Lankan refugees living in the State, little has changed, as a slew of demands on citizenship et al remain unmet.
"Sri Lankan Tamils are needed only for election campaigning here. But for many decades, no party has championed the cause of welfare for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees," says the leader of a refugee camp here. While the State government provides them with free education, healthcare, ration and a modest allowance, a lack of basic amenities plague the refugees.
For instance, a refugee camp at Pooluvapatti in the district, housing about 300 families, is filled with dilapidated houses. The refugees, who carry out repairs of their clay-tiled houses on their own, complain of discrimination by the government.
According to the Commissionerate of Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils, a total of 58,843 Lankan Tamil refugees live in 108 camps in the State, while 34,135 others live as non-camp refugees. While voting rights may not be a panacea to all their problems, the refugees believe they would be able to voice their demands better.
S Bala Murugan, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, points to a lack of domestic refugee law in India. "They are being treated with a step-motherly attitude by the government even after several recommendations on granting citizenship. This is ethnic discrimination," he rued.