EPC to seek Indian aid for development

By Chris Kamalendran

The Eastern Provincial Council which is led by Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan has sought direct assistance from India for the development of the province, resettlement of displaced persons and for launching a relief programme for an estimated 45,000 widows – most of whom have lost their husbands due to the war.

The first round of talks was held this week between an EPC delegation led by Minister M. L. A. M. Hisbullah and Indian High Commission officials in Colombo. The Indian team was led by Deputy High Commissioner Wickram Misri.

Mr. Hisbullah told The Sunday Times that the EPC was trying to obtain aid amounting to US $ 200 million to rehabilitate widows. He said that of the 45,000 widows in the province, 33,000 are war widows. He said the High Commission had sought a detailed proposal of the requirements of the Provincial Council.

The Indian government has also invited an EPC delegation to visit Gujarat on a study tour of dairy farms, food processing factories and agricultural farms.

The Indian government has already donated 22 mini-buses to the Eastern Provincial Council with eight of them for Trincomalee and the rest for Batticaloa and Ampara. The buses are to be used for schools, for resettlement programmes, health and for revenue collection purposes.

An additional three trains comprising railway engines and passenger coaches will be donated by the Indian government next week to the Eastern Province to be used by passengers travelling between Batticaloa and Trincomalee.

Indian High Commission spokesman Dinkar Asthana said he was aware of the buses being handed over, but was not aware about the details of the meeting held this week.

Provincial Council sources said they had launched the campaign to find their own funds as the funds allocated by various donors had not been utilized for the development of the province.

The Chief Minister had earlier appealed to the Provincial Council Secretariat for funds, but had failed to get a positive response. The Council had thereafter decided to seek its own funds, mainly from India which had earlier pledged to support the Provincial Council.

However, the Council was also seeking funds from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, JAICA and the Canadian government for road development, resettlement, the health sector, the education sector and for improving irrigation and canal systems.

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