The people of hill country plantations. Face a variety of fundamental problems. In the meantime, as for as the Kandy District too is concerned too, there are many important problems, both, some of them namely: land, land Issues, housing and residential areas, employment, and livelihood, statutory dues (EPF, ETF and gratuity) deserve to be considered of priority. It is noteworthy that many of the plantations in the Kandy District are managed by JEDB and SLSPC.
Avast majority of privately owned plantations were nationalized in two stages in 1972 under Land Reform Law (1). The first stage absorbed the Rupee Company Plantations and the second stage, the sterling company plantations. Some plantations were identified as non-viable by the government. The government vested the sterling company plantations in the JEDB and SLSPC for management. Although these agencies which managed such plantation until 1990s had taken the responsibility of the worker housing and social welfare, they limited their activities to repair, renovations and whitewashing of lines with the funds allocated.
Contrary to the workers’ expectations that nationalization world benefit them, they were forced out of lines. The government, by Gazette No 186/60 (3) of 1975 gad empowered the Land Reform commissioner to eject worker from such estates, using Emergency regulations, in order to maintain law and order and general peace. These provisions were used to drive out worker en masse under the cover of distributing land to landless.
The united National Party which formed the government in 1977, announced some more plantations as non-viable and handed over such plantations to NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION AND SETTLEMENT AUTHORITY (NADSA) which it’s formed, under a crop Diversifications and Land Distribution scheme. 20,000 acres came to be alienated thus. Land on any plantations were made in to blocks and handed over to adjacent villagers and important political supporters. This orphaned worker and their communities some districts including Kandy and others made landless and homeless. Which this situation continues to date, according to statics, of 12439 hectares of plantation land approximately 40 to 50% are un-used. Many of these estates, in the last few years, have been given out to outsides and foreigners.
Neither the workers nor the unions representing them have been told or made aware of it. The management on enquires by workers, have told that decisions were taken by higher ups in Colombo and matters were beyond their control. Outsides, taking over the land, do so under police protection. it shows that under the political situation then, that the government on the one land had made if a practice to terrorize the workers, and on the other, shirked accountability and transparency in its dealings. However, the hill country plantation community has lost livelihood and been rendered destitute.
In the meantime individuals with political patronage have grabbed plantation land. But the denial of land and housing rights to plantation workers who sacrificed themselves not only to the plantation sector, but on the whole, for the country’s development remains a major problem.
Recently in the avalanche of Meeriyabedde in the koslanda area of Badulle District a whole village went underground. In the meantime due to Earth Slip disaster, upper Gonava Division Loolcondera in the Hanguranketta Divisional secretariat area and some plantation in the Hewaheta area continue to suffer. With this as the background HDO and WSU started a campaign title “No Land No Life” Campaign.
The affected people made representations the HDO and WSU. WSU which went in to the matter, made a formal complaint to the Human Rights Commission, Kandy.
On the basis of this complaint the preliminary inquiry was held at the Human Rights Commission Colombo on 13.1.2015. WSU National Organizer Mr. R. Nadarasa and Industrial relations Officer Mr. S. Jeyapal represented the workers. While an Officer of the Haguranketha AGA office represented. In a situation arising from the non-participation of the management the Human Rights Commissioner notified the management to be present to inquiry on 19/01/2015.
The second inquiry was held on 05.02.2015 al Human Rights Commission Office Colombo. At this inquiry, Nuwara Eliya MPRO Building Research Officer was represented, AGA Nuwara Eliya was present. Assistant Superintendent, Grama Niladhari, WSU Officers and the affected workers were present.
The Human Rights Commissioner obscured that since it was the duly and the responsibility of the officers concerned to grant relives to the affected people, they should distribute suitable land to the affected people. It is noteworthy the Human Rights Commissioner that informed the matter to the ministry of housing. It is also noteworthy that the building research Center has informed that it will identify the suitable land and report it to the officers concerned.
The Campaign demand
Legalization of the plantation workers land and housing rights and distribute the 70000 hectares are unused estate land to the workers at 20 perches per family for housing and 20 acres for agriculture and livelihood purposes.