TV Network uncovers abject poverty & homelessness in rural Sri Lanka

TV Network uncovers abject poverty & homelessness in rural Sri Lanka

TV Network uncovers abject poverty & homelessness in rural Sri Lanka

Written by Staff Writer

06 Mar, 2016 | 2:15 pm

Sri Lanka’s “News1st” broadcasting channel has uncovered widespread poverty and homelessness in much of rural Sri Lanka. An unique programme commissioned by the Chairman of the Capital Maharaja Group, owners of the Sirasa, Shakthi TV and TV1 channels, initiated a programme Gamm Madda” or Door to Door campaign in which all members of the News 1st team went off in different directions of the island. Their quest: to listen to the problems of the people.

What they found has shocked an ordinarily unshakable news channel known for its outspoken views and for covering the stories that others may not want to cover. Many of the News 1st associates spoke of their shock at the level of poverty and lack of basic amenities in the villages they have covered thus far. Many had associated poverty and hardship with the people of the former conflict areas.

In Hambantota they uncovered fearful villagers who abandoned their mud huts and cadjan homes for a tree house – the result of rampant attacks on their person and property by wild elephants. The elephant-human conflict is very much alive in some parts of Sri Lanka.

In another instance the team found an elderly and weather beaten couple who were reduced to living in a tent. They had been there for three months. A tiny transistor radio, battery operated with a length of wire hung high on a tree kept them abreast with the news. Closer inspection revealed that they had their radio tuned into the Tamil language Shakthi channel.

They seemed resigned to their fate and appeared to have little hope. The report of their fate attracted sympathy and offers of assistance from all parts of the country and from outside.

The teams uncovered tragic scene after scene. Hospitals without doctors, people without access to drinking water, without proper shelter and of course without power. In the backdrop of these matters, the government are going ahead with a project in Trincomalee to generate 1,700 MW of electricity using coal as the base fuel. The project which is accommodating two Indian coal-power giants is set to go into commercial production in 2018.

Residents of the area complain that on top of the many hardships they already face and which remain unresolved by the government, the two projects will simply be adding injury to insult.

Public concern is widespread as the News1st teams discovered along with the University of Peradeniya who are jointly conducting this research. Says one resident of the Uva Moneragala district, “Harin Fernando only came here to get our vote. Now that he is safely in parliament and has a ministry too, we have not seen him or more than that we have not seen any of the benefits that he spoke of. It’s very bad of him.”

Amongst other complaints is the cost and distribution of fertiliser. The removal of subsidies for fertiliser has met with disbelief by the farming community. “It is strange that these ministers are ignoring this matter. Is that because the parliamentary elections are more than four years away?”

The dismal conditions that approximately 1.5 million people live in has other drawbacks: many children are not attending school. In one instance a child was unable to go to school because the father – disabled by the northern conflict – is unable to work and simply could not come up with Rs 274 to pay for the report card.

The Gamm Madda – Door to Door public service initiative is being carried out by News 1st and the University of Peradeniya. Reports could be found on the website www.newsfirst.lk

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