Divi Neguma to uplift 700,000 families

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 00:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said last week that his ministry’s objective is to make Sri Lanka free of poverty by 2016 by uplifting the economic levels of 700,000 families selected from all over the country under the Divi Neguma program. 50 poor families from each of the 14,008 Grama Seva divisions in the island will be selected for the purpose.

The minister expressed these thoughts when addressing a workshop attended by officers of the Agrarian Services Department at the National Youth Service Council auditorium, Maharagama.  Nearly 1,000 senior officers from the department attended this workshop on agricultural development.  Minister Rajapaksa further said that this step is being taken in accordance with the Government’s plan to develop the agricultural sector by completely modernising the 577 agro-service centres island-wide. Each of these would be a model service centre, he added.

The minister recalled that both he and the President had the experience of being land owners as well as tenant farmers and said that their father entered politics as a farmer. The minister also said that the Paddy Lands Act, which then Minister Philip Gunawardene introduced, was first implemented in Hambantota under the leadership of D.A. Rajapaksa, father of President Rajapaksa and Minister Rajapaksa.

Agro-service centres which were begun on the direction of the late Hector Kobbekaduwa have expanded having undergone many changes, according to Minister Basil Rajapaksa. What is required, he said, is to develop these centres so that they would be of service not only to farmers but everyone.

Among the first steps the President had taken was to develop areas of the Northern and Eastern Provinces devastated by terrorism. Many members of the armed forces had sacrificed their lives to liberate these areas.  

The minister said that it had become necessary to enforce the law parallel to developing the agricultural sector. Implementing the Paddy Lands Act is one of the main responsibilities of the Agrarian Services Department which needs to undertake the task of solving problems related to the implementation of the Act. However, the department should not limit itself to legal matters but focus more on meeting the overall development requirements of the farming community, the minister emphasised.

The tasks of the Agrarian Services Department, which was established on 1 October 1957, include enforcing the Paddy Lands Act introduced in 1958, maintenance of small irrigation channels and advising on agricultural issues among others.

The minister stressed on the need for the department to undertake the responsibility of developing and maintaining the 45% of small irrigation channels – below the extent of 200 acres – with the cooperation of other State organisations linked to the agricultural sector.  It is necessary, he emphasised, to identify the irrigation channels that need to be developed and the work to be completed within a specific time frame.   

The department has received only a few complaints regarding the fertiliser subsidy the allocation for which is about five times more than the funds allocated for the Samurdhi program. This allocation is not considered relief assistance but an investment, according to Minister Rajapaksa. He said it is also necessary to help farmers in finding a market for agricultural products in addition to providing them with the facilities they need for cultivation.

The book, ‘Thattu Maaru Ha Katti Maaru’ authored by I.K. Weerawardhana, a former Commissioner of the Agrarian services Department, the report on the rehabilitation and restoration of the Palgaswewa and Ellangoda tanks published by the Agrarian Services Department and two other publications on a map of tanks and wetlands were presented to the minister at the workshop.

Senior Ministers Athauda Seneviratne, Milroy Fernando, S.B. Navinna, Agricultural Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Economic Development Deputy Ministers Susantha Punchi Nilame and S.M. Chandrasena, Agrarian Services Commissioner Sunil Weerasinghe and Economic Development Ministry Additional Secretaries Shantha Bandara, Priyantha Mayadunne and Chandra Wickremasinghe were among those who attended the event.