Indian Minister of Culture, Housing and Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja who brought the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics on 19 August by a special airplane for an exposition in Sri Lanka, paid a visit to Mannar on 20 August. The Minister was accompanied by High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha, Ministry of Culture Additional Secretary Ravindra Singh and Archaeological Survey of India Director General Dr. Gautam Sengupta.
During her visit to Mannar, the Minister handed over 53 houses constructed under the pilot phase of the Indian housing project to the beneficiaries at Ganeshapuram near Velankulam, Manthai West. The handing over of houses to the beneficiaries marked the culmination of the process of gifting of the houses under the pilot phase of the project for construction of 1000 houses which was completed in July 2012. Minister was accorded a traditional welcome and unveiled a plaque. In a brief ceremony, Minister symbolically handed over the certificate of ownership to the beneficiaries.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister highlighted that the pilot phase of the project was part of an overall commitment of 50,000 houses announced by the Prime Minister of India during the state visit of the President of Sri Lanka in June 2010 and given the scale and reach, the Indian housing project is the flagship project of India’s development assistance to Sri Lanka and also one of the largest Grant assistance projects undertaken by the Government of India in any part of world.
Minister also highlighted that the housing project also complemented the numerous initiatives India has already taken to support the immediate humanitarian needs and requirements of IDPs and is part of the long-term reconstruction and development programmes for IDPs in Sri Lanka.
Minister also thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for its full support to the project and highlighted that the next phase of the housing project for 43,000 housing units under the owner-driven model in the Northern and Eastern Provinces had been launched recently with the signing of Agreements awarding work to four implementing Agencies.
During Minister Selja’s meeting with Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa on 21 August, Minister Rajapaksa thanked Minister Selja for leading the delegation that brought the sacred Kapilavastu relics of Lord Buddha from India and said that the exposition of sacred relics in Sri Lanka signified the long standing and close relationship between the two countries.
Minister Rajapaksa also termed India’s contribution towards resettlement and reconstruction programmes in the conflict affected Northern and Eastern Provinces as a vital factor and appreciated Government of India for extending its fullest cooperation at each stage of the process of rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction work immediately after the end of the conflict. He singled out the Indian Housing project as a major initiative of Government of India in assisting the resettlement of the IDPs.
Minister Kumari Selja expressed satisfaction with the progress in the rehabilitation and reconstruction projects being implemented with the Indian assistance and thanked Government of Sri Lanka for its full support to these projects. Minister emphasised that the completion of the first phase of the 1000 houses under the pilot phase of the Indian Housing project would go a long way in accelerating the process of resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.