The pavement hawkersí revolution
Towards the North of the Gampaha District is the Maha Oya. Towards
the South is the Kelani River. On the West is the ocean; Towards the
East is the equator. In the past this district was part of the province
known as Maya Rata. The Gampaha district borders Puttalam and Kurunegala
on the North, Colombo on the South and Kegalle in the East. The extent
of the districtís land area is 1,387 square kilometres.
It comprises the four korales of Aluthkuru, Hapitigama South,
Hapitigama North and Siyane Korale. There are also 13 Divisional
Secretariat Divisions. The districtís electorates are Attanagalla,
Biyagama, Divulapitiya, Dompe, Gampaha, Ja-ela, Katana, Kelaniya, Mahara,
Minuwangoda, Mirigama, Negombo and Wattala. The districtís total
population is 2,165,000. Of this 52 percent are males. The percentage of
Samurdhi beneficiaries is 26 percent. In the past the percentage of the
districtís unemployed was 15 percent. Today it is seven percent. One
reason for this is the self-employment programme directed by Attorney
Pushpa Rajapaksa under the direction of Economic Development Minister
Nimal Perera (59), a father of six, is a resident of Akarawita,
Gampaha. He was unemployed for nearly two years after pavement hawking
was banned. Until then he was selling sweetmeats on the pavement. Tears
of joy flowed down his cheeks when he became the owner of a Dimo Batta
vehicle. Today not only Nimal Perera but also nearly 500 former pavement
hawkers in the Gampaha and Colombo Districts are owners of Dimo Battas,
which have been given to self-employment entrepreneurs without any
collateral as a joint service by the Bank of Ceylon and the Peopleís
Minister Rajapaksa enjoys a cup of milk bought from a mobile
sales outlet. Also present is Bank of Ceylon Chairman Dr.
The instalment to be paid for the first month is Rs. 14,971.
Thereafter it is Rs. 22,135 for each of the balance 54 months. All
payments will be completed in five years. Accordingly, payment per day
is between Rs. 500 and Rs.750. Very soon over a 1,000 former pavement
hawkers in number of districts including Kandy, Galle, Anuradhapura and
Hambantota will benefit from Dimo Battas.
The exact date on which pavement hawking began in Sri Lanka is not
known. However Admiral Adam Wester has stated that he saw travelling
salesmen when the Dutch landed in Batticaloa in 1638. It is believed
that travelling salesmen of the Portuguese (1505-1658), Dutch
(1658-1796) and British periods (1796-1948) became pavement hawkers in
later years. All those who received Dimo Battas have been pavement
hawkers. The second stage of this distribution program was held at the
Colombo and Gampaha (Kadawatha) town halls last week in the presence of
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
President of the Self-Employed Entrepreneurs Association Mahinda
Kahandagamage directed the distribution of vehicles under the
sponsorships of Diesel and Motor Engineering Public Leasing Company (Dimo)
Limited, Bank of Ceylon and Peopleís Bank. Gampaha Divisional Secretary
P. P. Ratnasiri, Colombo Municipal Commissioner Omar Kamil and many
other invitees attended the event. This programme has been launched in
accordance with the Presidentís Mahinda Chinthana vision to give better
economic opportunities to people so they would not become a burden to
the nation. Self-employment is an area where small investments can make
big contributions to the countryís economy. It will attract families
towards creating a healthy socio-economic environment.
The number of pavement hawkers in Sri Lanka is nearly 25,000 out of
which around 3,000 are in the Pettah. However, according to police and
municipal reports this number is 6,000. The formation of the
Self-Employed Entrepreneurs Association in 2006 strengthened their
position. Its president, Mahinda Kahandagamage too has been a pavement
hawker for 35 years.
Minister Basil Rajapaksa handing over a Dimo Batta to a
A sales centre for pavement hawkers has been opened at Nugegoda and a
Peopleís Fair (Janatha Pola) is also coming up. More such sales centres
will be built in the Manning Market area of Colombo, in Maharagama,
Galle, Kandy, Kalutara, Borella, Wellawaya, Yatiyantota, Kataragama and
Nuwara Eliya. The distribution of Dimo Battas among persevering people
will see the emergence of a new business community in Sri Lanka.
The vehicles given under the second stage of the programme serve as
mobile units for (a) collecting and distributing milk (b) as mobile
barber saloons and (c) textile sales outlets, vegetables, fancy goods,
ornamental items, books, tea, fish, milk and kola kenda outlets. The
Liya Abiman Organization conducted a programme to brief self-employed
persons in the Gampaha district on the use of Dimo Battas for such
purposes. Attorney Pushpa Rajapaksa is already helping women whose
families own Dimo Battas to obtain driving licences so they can engage
in their businesses without having to employ drivers.
Suneetha Jayaruwan (51) who resides in Dewamottawa, Katana is the
mother of two - Nilakshi and Randi. Her familyís source of income was
running fruit sales outlets at weekly fairs.
The new self-employment scheme has generated fresh hopes both
Suneetha and her husband Tilakaratna Silva who recalled his difficult
days as a pavement hawker. We also met Razik Mohamed and his wife
Fatima. Razik who lives in Enderamulla earned his living by selling
clothes and threads. He was without a source of income for almost a year
following the ban on pavement hawking. At last the dreams of his family
have been realized.
Margaret Silva (48) residing in Gorakadeniya, Attanagalla is a mother
Her latest business venture is a Dimo Batta mobile barber saloon. She
is doing business with her son who is an expert barber. The charge for a
haircut is Rs. 80. For shaving the charge is Rs. 50. Wimalani Perera
(36) is a mother of four who used to run a tea kiosk near the town hall.
She is one of the hundreds who received a Dimo Batta commercial vehicle.
Addressing those present at the distribution of the vehicles,
Minister Rajapaksa said that the Mahinda Chinthana programme for
encouraging self-employed persons had today become a reality.
He expressed his joy on being able to introduce the service of
selling essential consumer items to the public under the second stage of
Stressing the need for such projects in order to win Sri Lankaís
economic war, he said that the people should move forward by drawing
strength from their heritage and historical experiences; He called for a
united effort to win the economic war, overcoming all obstacles.
A bright future is on the horizon. People are gaining new strength.
As families prosper so with the villages and through them the country
will see a national revival. This goal is nearing its fruition. The Dimo
Batta self-employment scheme is undoubtedly playing a crucial role in
this progressive march.