Wednesday, November 25, 2009

About 100 families of Ratugala Veddah community are facing hardships for want of basic facilities....!!!

Veddahs ask authorities to help them live

By Prasanna Padmasiri and Wimal Dissanayake

About 100 families of Ratugala Veddah community are facing hardships for want of basic facilities. Ratugala which is surrounded by the Viyanpola, Danigala, Kulaleta and Ratugal hills is about 30 kilometres away from Ampara on the Bibile –Ampara road.

The tanks, canals and all water courses have run dry because of the drought, further aggravating the hardships of the people. The Veddah community in Danigala forest who depended on hunting and Chena cultivation were settled in Ratugala when their traditional habitats went under the Senanayake Reservoir Project in 1930. Ratugala Veddah Chief Suda Vanniya said “The authorities who settled us in the Ratugala colony were not concerned about the basic facilities of the colony. Our requests to the successive governments since independence have been ignored. We were born and bred in the jungle but now it is a forbidden territory for us. We are in a predicament for want of land for Chena cultivation. The people of my community are struggling for existence without any attention by the authorities”

Chief Incumbent of Ratugala Bodhirukkarama Temple Kudavila Hemaloka Thera said “Officials must understand that the Veddah community has lived in the jungles for decades and they make a living by using natural resources. Now they are not allowed to enter the jungle and collect honey, or medicinal herbs to make a living. These restrictions should be relaxed in case of the Veddah community”

Principal of Ratugala Junior School V.W. Susantha Gunarathe said “The children from Ratugala Veddah Village earlier attended Galgamuwa Vidyalaya. However other children ridiculed them and boycotted the school. This compelled the authorities to open a separate school for them in Ratugala. At present 54 children attend this school. After passing Grade five they are compelled to stay back home for want of a school with higher studies.”

A resident of the area Gunabanda said “If irrigation facilities and land are available ours will be a prosperous community. However, we have been ignored by the authorities for more than 75 years”

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Moneragala H.K.P.Jayalath said steps were taken to alienate land to 15 selected families and to provide them facilities for agriculture. He said the Agricultural Department had implemented a programme to supply plants and seeds for agriculture to the farmers. He said the Department has allocated Rs.1.1 million for this purpose. He was hopeful that the living standards of the Ratugala Veddah community could be uplifted through the on going programme.

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