“It is not only inhumane to be expected to live under such terrible conditions, but these conditions are also a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the spread of other communicable diseases. If the water is not pumped out manually, it will be at least April by the time all the water left over by the floods evaporate,” said a distraught Muslim IDP from Uppukulam, Mannar, whilst pointing to a stagnant pool of water left by December’s flood (2012), in his backyard. He, together with his wife and widowed daughter live in a one-roomed shack in Uppukulam since their return in 2000.
Muslim families in Uppukulam, Kondapitty (Mannar District), who were evicted by the LTTE in 1990, were given permit land by the State and permitted to return to Uppukulam in 2000. Having lived in cadjan huts for years, some families have been moved to an Indian Housing Scheme four years ago. Of the 96 houses built, only 50 (comprising approximately 200 residents) are currently occupied, as there is no water supply, and the conditions of these houses and there immediate environs is deplorable, particularly as a result of the recent floods. There are still pools of flood water (remaining from last year), surrounding many of the houses. The 46 owners of the unoccupied houses are living temporarily with friends and relatives until they are able to return to their homes. They will return once the flood water recedes, but will have to leave once more when the monsoons begin, said another villager.
As there is no Government water supply, these families (most with no steady source of income), are made to cough up Rs. 2000 a month per family, to get water from a bowzer, which can be shared between four houses at a time. They also suffer a lot without water during the drought season each year, as the bowzers do not come at all then. “The main water lines have all been laid out, but we are still to get connected to the Government water supply,” lamented one elderly villager. Most of the houses also do not have proper toilet facilities, which is quite troublesome for the people.
Many of the families here are female headed, but most of them are not ably employed, and have therefore lived hand to mouth since their return in 2000. Some women make Dosai and sell, some give tution at a nearby Montessori, whilst most of the men are day labourers. The youth who have completed school do not want to go fishing, and therefore have little option but to idle at home as there are no jobs for them. Some children are compelled to drop out of school after their O/L’s as their parents cannot afford to buy books for them and are therefore unable to send them to school.
Tamils villagers in the surrounding areas however, say that these families all own houses in other areas such as Puttalam, and have only returned to get new houses.
An elderly, ailing single mother of three daughters (two of whom are mute), live in a little cadjun shack in a plot of land in Vidathalthivu (Mannar District), awaiting the clearing of her original lands, which have become jungle lands during the war. Having returned in 2009 and registered with the local authorities, she is currently staying rent free on a private land, the owner of which currently lives in Colombo. She cannot build on it, but she has been permitted to live there. Her cadjan house is rotting and falling apart due to the rains, and the land being infested with mosquitoes and snakes is quite hazardous to live on, but she has no other choice, she says. “I have spent all my savings on educating my girls, but now they cannot find jobs. They are very intelligent and are quite skilled in tailouring work, but there is nobody to help us,” said the desperate mother. They have no water, electricity or income. She relies on the help she gets from her daughter and son-in-law who work in Puttalam. Also, when the water level is low, she tries to catch prawns from the lagoon nearby. They have to use the pond nearby to bathe and have water to drink only during the rainy season. The rest of the time, they need to buy water from the bowser.