Sri Lanka’s Constitution – Strides in the Right Direction

A story of displacement to one of empowerment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Issues related to Sri Lankan Tamils

Why in the news?

Over 45% of Sri Lankan Tamils in Tamil Nadu’s rehabilitation camps were born in India, per a recent interim report by a State government panel.

Causes of Tamilian Displacement

  • Ethnocentric Violence: The primary cause of displacement was the ethnocentric violence in Sri Lanka, particularly against the Tamil population. The violence led to significant loss of life and property, forcing Tamils to flee for their safety.
  • Proximity and Linguistic Commonality: Many Tamils chose India, particularly Tamil Nadu, due to its geographical proximity and the shared Tamil language, making it a more accessible and familiar refuge.

Government Initiatives

  • Provision of Basic Amenities: Refugees receive free housing, electricity, water, and monthly food rations. Additionally, they get a monthly cash dole.
  • Educational Support: Access to government schools is provided, along with a monthly stipend of ₹1,000 for those pursuing higher education. One-time educational support includes ₹12,000 for arts and science students and ₹50,000 for engineering students.
  • Welfare Schemes: Refugees are eligible for various welfare schemes available to the people of Tamil Nadu, including the women’s rights scheme providing ₹1,000 per month.
  • New Housing: Recently, the Government of Tamil Nadu has constructed new homes for about 5,000 Sri Lankan Tamils.
  • Renaming Camps: In an effort to destigmatise, the refugee camps were renamed as Sri Lankan Tamil Rehabilitation Camps in a government order dated October 28, 2021.

Bringing Back Dignity

  • Educational Achievements: The welfare schemes have led to 100% school enrollment and over 4,500 graduates from the camps.
  • Breaking Caste Barriers: As refugees, Sri Lankan Tamils are categorized under the Refugee category, which has helped in break free from caste barriers.
  • Government Recognition: The renaming of refugee camps to Sri Lankan Tamil Rehabilitation Camps is a step towards restoring the dignity of the displaced population.
  • Advocacy and Support: Continuous advocacy by organizations like OfERR, support from donors, and political parties have facilitated the patronage extended by the Government of Tamil Nadu and the Government of India.
  • Potential for Future Contribution: The transformation of refugees into resource persons capable of contributing to nation-building when they return to Sri Lanka.

Current Challenges

  • Legal Limitations: Indian laws currently do not permit local integration by granting citizenship to Sri Lankan refugees.
  • Economic and Health Crises: The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis in Sri Lanka have slowed down the process of refugees returning to their homeland.
  • Uncertain Future: Despite the improvements in their living conditions and dignity, Sri Lankan Tamils in India continue to live with uncertainty about their long-term future.

Way forward:

  • Amend Legal Frameworks: Advocate for amendments in Indian laws to allow for local integration and citizenship for long-term refugees, providing them with a secure legal status and equal rights.
  • Strengthen Economic Opportunities: Develop targeted economic empowerment programs, including vocational training and employment initiatives, to enhance self-sufficiency and reduce dependency on state support, ensuring a sustainable livelihood for the refugees.

Mains PYQ: 

Q ‘India is an age-old friend of Sri Lanka.’ Discuss India’s role in the recent crisis in Sri Lanka in the light of the preceding statement. (UPSC IAS/2022)

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