In Praise of the Sematha Sevana Housing Programme

Luckvijaya Sagara Palansuriya, in Island, 10 August 2019

The ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme is a development programme that is providing housing facilities for all communities in the society of this country. This development process is a programme delivering the benefits of housing and settlement development not only to the people of the South but also to the people of the North and the Plantation Sector.

Sajith Premadasa visiting  a model village

The people of the North have faced a war of three decades. The human lives lost in the conflict number in the thousands. Furthermore, lakhs of people lost their homes and belongings in the conflict. The Government activated various development programmes for them in the past decade. Out of all development tasks in housing and settlement development, the people in the North were more attracted to the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme. As a result of that, in compliance with the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme, several New Model Villages dawned in the North.

Seven Model Villages based on housing development with fully completed other development tasks are thus being vested with the people.

 

This is a historic milestone in the housing and shelter development programme of this country and in the housing and shelter development process of the North. Marking that milestone ceremoniously, the Joseph Puram and the Joseph Vaz Puram Housing Projects in the Mannar District were vested with house-beneficiaries on 08th of August. Then, on the 09th of August, three New Model Village Projects in the Vavuniya District, named Sabaripuram, Kalehimahal and Ahaththiarpuram will be vested with house-beneficiaries. Likewise, today two New Model Villages named Sendamalgramam and Thiruverapuram in the Jaffna District will be vested with house-beneficiaries. All in all, the total number of new houses constructed in these seven New Model Villages is 191. The Minister of Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Sajith Premadasa will be vesting these New Model Villages with house-beneficiaries on 08th, 09th and 10th of August in Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna Districts.

 

Housing is a process bonded with the culture of a community and a country. Even in the Sri Lankan society, all communities, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher, create their houses conforming to their own identities. What happens in the Government creating housing projects with its full intervention is that those houses become alien to their beneficiaries. Looking back at the post-war habitat development programmes carried out by the Government that was in power at that time, this fact becomes apparent. The Government that came to power after the war was over carried out the process of creating new houses with the contributions of Government institutions, Non Governmental Organizations and other institutions. But, these houses thus constructed were rejected or disliked by beneficiaries. Ample evidence for that could be seen even today in the North.

 

Many housing projects started in the North by various countries utilizing varied technological methods and investing and through housing development indigenous to those countries were unsuccessful, at the inception itself or after they were activated. The basic reason for this was the activation of these housing projects without understanding the true needs of the people like in other areas of the country, their approval and the people’s participation. Understanding this well, the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) Housing Development Programme launched the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme in the North with the contribution of the participatory development concept activated the ‘Uda Gam’ Programme in the 80s decade.

 

The ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme that was launched in the year 2015 operated in the North and East as well as the other parts of the country. This programme became a success in the North due to the proper understanding of this programme by the people of the North and their proper participation. With the performance of this programme, 674 Model Villages are being constructed at present in the North. The ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme was not just another Model Village process. Various housing and settlement development programmes were activated and the people of the North have also received the benefits of those development tasks just like the people in other parts of the Island.

 

With the assistance of ‘Semata Sevana’, 23,000 people have been benefited in the Northern Province. The ‘Semata Sevana’ programme has spent more than 6000 million in the Northern Province. In carrying out this task, like in other parts of the country, every beneficiary received financial allocation a little more or a little less than the value of his or her house. In the North the majority of the housing constructions were carried out with a financial sponsorship of about Rupees 5-6 lakhs per housing unit. From the start of the construction of the house, the displaced house-beneficiaries in the North provide their and their family members’ labour contributions like other house-beneficiaries in the other parts of the country. The end result of this is the construction of a house with a value over the financial contribution provided by the Government. Accordingly, the value of every house built through this development programme exceeds Rupees one million.

 

This is not a programme which constructed only housing programme. All facilities for uplifting the family’s economy, social status and cultural qualities are provided with the contributions of other Government Institutions, Non Governmental Organizations and individuals in housing. The end result is the dawning of a fully equipped Model Village with a number of new houses, a road network, water and electricity services and all other facilities. The Model Villages, constructed in the days of yore by the ‘Uda Gam’ Programme in the North and the East, were completely destroyed by the war. All such destroyed Model Villages being re-created on the same ground is another special feature of the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme. The most laudable feature here is that the elders who were provided with houses in the days of yore through the ‘Uda Gam’ Programme presenting the ownership of houses in these Model Villages to the second generation. The people of the North are a community expressing their unstinted gratitude on this housing development programme and its corporate structure. At present, the National Housing Development Authority is providing loans for beneficiaries of their housing development programme and provides assistance for housing to impoverished and displaced people.

 

Proceeding this way, the National Housing Development Authority is working on the task of recovering the housing loans given in the relevant period and giving the monies to the people for housing development. Even though this process of recovering housing loans has been activated throughout the whole Island, the people in the North have become a foremost community in this task. Accordingly, a special feature is that the repayment of loans obtained by the National Housing Development Authority is 100% or more in all Districts of the North.

 

Looking at the activities of the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme, it is apparent that it is operated Island-wide as a massive development programme. Furthermore, like in other parts of the country, every New Model Village constructed in the North consists of over 25 new houses. In the New Model Village named ‘Rambachetty’ considered the largest Model Village to be constructed under the ‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) National Housing Development Programme, 150 houses have been completed and the Model Village is ready to be vested with house-beneficiaries in the near future.

‘Semata Sevana’ (Shelter for All) is an organized process for giving the facility of housing to all communities. Even though this housing programme is operated by Government Institutions led by the National Housing Development Authority, its true activists and owners are house-beneficiaries. Even though the beneficiaries are in various difficulties, they are almost always successful in turning that development programme to their own development. Because of this, the gathering of courageous house-beneficiaries of other areas of the North and seven New Model Villages consisting of nearly 200 new houses in Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna Districts, proposed to be vested with house-beneficiaries could be shown as a real victory of this record-breaking housing programme in the North.

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Filed under politIcal discourse, propaganda, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, welfare & philanthophy, working class conditions

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