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Thursday, 20 June 2013

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Irrigation - please find a way

The Vaunikulam irrigation scheme is situated between two DS Divisions – one in Manthai East in the South of the Pali Aru river and the other in Thunukkai. This scheme is one of the largest in Sri Lanka, irrigating directly 6,060 acres of paddy land and another 800 acres of highland under other crops by lift irrigation. There are about 4,000 families depending on farming activities under this irrigation scheme.

Since 1950s the scheme was functioning successfully. After meeting local consumption requirements surplus produce was marketed outside, including at the Colombo Pettah Market. The people were leading sustainable living standards till 1980s when the ethnic conflict commenced and a period of turbulence and turmoil followed thereafter. The situation worsened and reached its culmination in 2009 when we were carried away to unknown areas in the Eastern side of the district, walking for days and weeks, enduring loss of lives, possessions and property. We were ultimately taken to a Detention Camp in Vavuniya and kept there for some months. At the end of the war, normalcy returned and we were brought back to our deserted home areas.

We had the feeling that we had returned under civil administration. The irrigation, agriculture and administration authorities requested us to recommence cultivation activities, promising that the dilapidated irrigation systems would be repaired and rehabilitated. We learnt that the reconstruction work had been launched with funds by the Asian Development Bank under the name ‘Conflict Affected Rehabilitation Emergency Project.’ The works were divided into two packages.

Rehabilitation of tank bund and components was assigned to a contractor who commenced work in June 2011 with schedule to complete by December 2012. The other contract, commenced in October 2011 was to be completed by end March 2013. The entire investigation, estimation and work supervision was carried out by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau under the tutelage of the Irrigation Department.

As the tank bund works were concentrated in adjoining reaches they took off effectively and was visibly fast. But, on the other hand the contract for the rehabilitation of channel systems was not moving, due to the unwieldy isolated locations spread all over the 6,060 acres with poor access through earthen track roads or along ground paths. It is quite understandable that a single contractor with one organized mobilization setup cannot move about conveniently overcoming many constraints in remote sites. As a result, the work in the canal systems was not satisfactorily completed within the agreed period. Realizing this debacle, the contractor wrote to the Project Director of his inability to complete the work in time, which by April 2013 was only 33%. We came to understand that the contractor asked for mutual termination of this contract. This caused consternation to the farmers as to the unfinished position of the balance works. If the works were left without completion, the repercussions would turn out to be worse than what it was before the rehabilitation process.

In this situation the Irrigation Department subdivided the remaining works into 26 packages each upto a maximum of 10 m rupees and contractors were selected from a list. Out of these 11 contracts were signed and work is going on. But for the balance 15 packages, although contractors were selected there is a virtual stalemate of the Down Stream Rehabilitation Works. It is not due to the farmers instance that the entire work was given to one contractor. That was decided by the authorities whoever it may be.

It is common knowledge that rehabilitation works cannot be completed in one year by one contractor alone. Therefore, packaging the balance works for re-construction appears a very pragmatic solution.

This methodology has been accepted by the Economic Development Ministry, the Irrigation Department and the CECB Consultants but due to some lobbying by some highly placed officials in the ADB who are prevaricating the issues, sub-dividing the works have been frustrated without a solution.

We, at the receiving end of these manoures, are waiting for a sympathetic understanding of our deprived condition for several years, without a productive cultivation and harmonized sustainable living. I therefore fervently hope that good sensibilities would prevail to recommence the balance down stream construction works till completion, for us to fully involve in our normal cultivation activities.

T. RAJARATNAM
VAUNIKULAM


Fund transfer fees by private bank

One my friends, a senior citizen, used to transfer funds from one account to another branch account of the same private bank, by sending a signed transfer note. This went on smoothly for years without any problem. On 2.5.2013 for such a fund transfer from the Maharagama branch, a sum of Rs. 150 was charged as transfer fees. On questioning the bank officials informed that it is a new rule imposed by the Central Bank.

Inquiries made at other banks confirmed that there is no such charge made as transfer funds within the same bank. There is a system called the ‘Slips transfer' to transfer funds from one bank to another. It costs only Rs. 250/- irrespective of the amount involved, as stipulated by the Central Bank.

This is highly unethical as it does not cost anything other than a few commands through the computer. From a highly sophisticated ATM withdrawal banks charge only Rs 5/- as bank charges. If a sum of Rs 5 or 10 was charged for internal transfers it may be considered reasonable.

CHARLES A. DE SILVA
PILIYANDALA


Juvenile crime to Conciliation Boards

A 13 year old girl from Horana was produced before the Judiciary on grounds that she stole eight coconuts, said to be for the purpose of finding money to be paid to the school for some development work. A 10 year old boy from the Nochchiyagama area was produced before the Judiciary recently for stealing a toy-gun.

A lawyer from the Nochchiyagama Magistrate's Court who appeared on behalf of this child free, at the end of the case had given him Rs. 1000 to buy any toy he liked.

It is prudent that officials and the society be more considerate and sensitive when handling cases involving children. The Mediation Board is the most appropriate institution which is approved by law, to look into such cases initiated as the members of Mediation Boards are well trained by the Ministry of Justice and the Mediation Board Commission in the implementation of the provisions of the Mediation Board Act.

R.L. GURUGAMAGE
DODANDUWA


Provincial Council elections in the North

The government should levy a tax of Rs.10,000 from all candidates who contest the Provincial Council Elections as a charge to pay the workers who are employed to remove posters and cutouts when the elections are over. The government should not spend public funds for this purpose as done before. It is not correct at all to engage the Police Force to clean parapet walls where posters are pasted. It is not the duty of the police to do this type of work when they are entrusted to attend to more important matters in the country.

Also the government will be able to cover up the expenditure to some extent, if the deposits of all candidates are increased.

H.G.P. JAYASEKERA JP
AMPITIYA


Second World War 1938-1945

Chancellor Adolf Hitler who was a talented speaker became the leader of the National Socialist Party on 30.1.1938. At that time most Germans were poor as it was the Jews who were controlling the trade and other business assets.

They were earning by unfair means fleecing and cheating the Germans. Hitler wanted lands to cultivate to feed the poor Germans. This was the main reason for him to have launched the war which erupted into WW II. In 1938 Germans occupied Austria, which was the homeland of Hitler. Germans had a secret Police Force called the Gestapo. It was a very ruthless force. The second world war really started on September 1, 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany. The Germans finally surrendered in 1945.

V.K.B. RAMANAYAKE
MAHARAGAMA


Saki Sanda Suwaris

Anyone who has watched the teledrama Saki Sanda Suwaris would have noticed in it a big difference from other teledramas currently shown on TV. The language is different, clothes are different, mannerisms are different in fact everything is much different. There is no glamour nor any artificiality in this teledrama. The story goes back to our colonial times where we see an Aarachchi mahathmaya, a Vidana mahathmaya, and also a Vederala of a different society together.

It is a great pleasure to watch the actors and actresses perform their roles with capability and expertise. They are all seasoned artists who need not have been tutored. I enjoy watching this teledrama over the weekend on the Hiru Channel at 8 pm and I'm sure there are many more who hold my view.

ANANDI KULATILEKE
MAHARAGAMA

 

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