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Thursday, 16 June 2011






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Government Gazette

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 Basil Rajapaksa.


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 Bank.

Minister Rajapaksa enjoys a cup of milk bought from a mobile sales outlet. Also present is Bank of Ceylon Chairman Dr. Gamini Wickremasinghe

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.

Travelling salesmen

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.

Sales centres

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 self-employment beneficiary

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.

Consumer items

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 of three.

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.

National revival

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 the programme.

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.

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