Voicing for Housing and Land Rights – Nikathenna
The Nikathenna CBO is in Panwila Divisional Secretariat in Kandy district. The estate comprised of 565 populations. This is a state owned tea plantation and one of the most neglected estate from the government services.
The line houses they are living in are 200 years older and have never gone through any safety analysis. Further, their struggle for housing and land rights remained the same over the years but all their efforts were futile and they were deprived of government assistance.
Upon the project inception the estate community was capacitated and encouraged to form a Community Based Organization (CBO) through which they can find means and ways to get government services to their respective estates.
Land slide during heavy rains was a serious issue faced by the Nikathenna estate community. The soil bund in the back yard of the line room slides on to the line houses in heavy rains. 34 families became victims of recent landslide and they were temporarily resettled in nearby school. People have continuously reported this to the estate management and government authorities but they never received a feasible response.
In this context, the Nikathenna CBO capacitated by the ISD approached the estate management and a discussion to find a way out for the above matter.
The estate manager visited the estate and accused the residents saying that “You people have no any rights to extend the line houses and renovate, you should be in old line houses since you are inferior”
With the support of the ISD Program Officer, the residents informed this issue to the electronic media. The national media ‘Shankthy TV’ reporter visited the estate, recorded peoples’ voice and telecasted in the news in the national TV on 2nd of November 2016. With that, the issue became public and serious.
Assisted by the ISD field Program Officer, the CBO was also able to bring the issue to the Divisional Development Committee (which is the monthly stakeholder meeting of the Division). In that meeting the estate manager had to accept his bad in front of all the stakeholders in the area including Divisional Secretary, the district parliamentarian and representatives from some NGOs working in the area.
At the meeting itself, the relevant authorities agreed to visit the estate and give an amicable solution to their land and housing rights. As a result, the district parliamentarian and some other government officers visited the estate and as an initial step two families were able to get alternative land in a safe location. At the moment the CBO is working on obtaining safe lands for other families too.
Multi- purpose building for Bowhill
Bowhill estate is located in Pasbage Korale Divisional Secretariat in Kandy district. It comes under Greenwood GN division and comprise of 1654 population out of which 1416 reside in the estate housing.
Non availability of a common gathering place was quite a long due need for the estate community amidst many other gaps in their access to services. Identifying the importance and necessity, the Bowhill RDS which was capacitated by the ISD from the first phase of the project approached local politician in the area to seek funds to develop of community hall (multi-purpose building) for their community. They also have earmarked an abandon building/house in the estate to be renovated. With all these details, during their meeting with the local politician the RDS furnished an amicable and cost effective way of developing a space for community meetings.
Convinced by the proven success of the RDS over the period, the local politician agreed to allocate LKR. 500,000 from his fund to renovate the identified building and the RDS also got the contract for building renovation.
However, upon completion the building attracted everyone’s attention went to the renovated building and the Grama Nillagari (Village Head) and Development Officer (DO) assigned to the area tried to hand over the building key to the adjoining village despite the higher number of population residing in this estate. The aforesaid two government officers tried to do so in view of using this new building as their office space. The government officers were quite biased and familiar with the adjoining village and enjoy working with the villages than the interior estate community and requested the RDS to hand over the building key to the Divisional Secretariat for further actions.
Quite disappointed by the incident, the RDS office bearers visited the Divisional Secretariat and had a dialogue with the Divisional Secretary and submitted a letter of their plight. Given below is an excerpt from their letter.
“The Multipurpose building was requested by the people and constructed by and for the benefit of the people for their common meetings, cultural events and other needs but not to be used as office space for the grass root level government officers. If you really need a space for any meetings and discussions, we can accommodate your requests as they arise. If the RDS hand over the key to the Divisional Secretariat (DS) the RDS members have to visit the DS office whenever we wish to use the hall. If we have the key with us we will maintain the hall in good condition and also can use anytime thus benefiting many people in the estate rather than just two government officers only”
However, the Divisional Secretary was also in his firm decision and asked the RDS officers to hand over the key to the DS. The DS also informed that RDS members or the community can ask the building space from the DO. Frustrated in one hand and encouraged on the other hand the RDs members wrote memorandum, got it signed by majority of the estate community who were interested in the matter and then submitted it to the DS, local politician as well as the line ministry.
As a result of that, the RDS was able to get the hold of the Multi-Purpose building thus benefiting the estate community while opening it for the adjoining village and the Grass root government officers. The other societies in the surrounding such as the funeral society came forward to support the RDS giving ten chairs to be used in their public meetings.
At present apart from having community meetings, the building is used as a public space in conducting free Mathematics, English and Science classes for 20 students by a volunteer teacher from the Bowhill estate. Further, the adjoining village also have started using the building for their common meetings thus improving their linkages with the estate community. Therefore, the multipurpose building maintained by the estate RDS also act as a mean of social cohesion. Not only the community, the government officers also use the building to conduct their meetings. One such good example is, the area police conducted their civil protection team meeting in this building last December.