My visit in Sri Lanka in two occasions – one in first part of March 2018 and another was in November 2019 has greatly fascinated me. I could get more insight about the Island and its people and culture as well as seen many places. Everywhere wonderful people with pristine beauty and peace can be observed. In this article , few points about Batticaloa District (visited in last part of November 2019) and my interaction with senior district official Mr M. Uthayakumar ( district head) officially called Government Agent or District Secretary are highlighted. He was very through about the Governments’ programmes, an erudite person and a dynamic officer.
Let me start first with Sri Lanka and in view of this, few lines about Sri Lanka’s socio-economic conditions are presented. Sri Lanka is spread over to an area of 65,000 square kilometres home of little more than 2 crore people. It has to be appreciated that country’s socio-economic development is better than many countries. In this regard by referring, Rural Development Statistics, 2016-17 prepared by National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj popularly known as (NIRD&PR, an Organisation of Government of India), Hyderabad few particulars on Sri Lanka are presented. Annual population growth rate of Sri Lanka during 2010-15 was 0.8 per cent with crude birth rate 17.6 per 1,000 people and death rate 6.2 per 1,000. Infant mortality per 1000 live births was 8.2 in 2013 while mortality rate under five years of age was 9.6. Average life expectancy at birth (2015 data) in general was 75 years- male 71.7 years and female 78.4 years. Literacy is important for the development of people and effective literacy skills open the doors to more educational and employment opportunities so that people are able to pull themselves out of poverty and chronic underemployment. The statistics show adult literacy rate (15 years and above) in the country during 2005-13 was 91.2 per cent. Whereas youth literacy rates (15-24 years) for male and female during the same period were 97.7 and 98.6 years respectively. While I was in the country talked to cross section of youths, educated persons and observed youths were more interested in study discouraging child marriage. The married persons prefer two children.
As already mentioned, in November 2019, I visited Batticaloa District and interacted with senior district official Mr M. Uthayakumar also many local residents. The district is located at eastern side of Sri Lanka. The data provided by the district officials based on 12 April 2019 publication, reveal that the total land area of the district is 2610 square kilometres and inland water area is 224 square kilometres and thus total area of the district is 2854 square kilometres. The Batticaloa Lagoon, beach, old Catholic Church and Hindu temples are attracted places from tourism pint of view.
The total population of the district was 603,192 and male and female were – 296,513 and 306,679 respectively indicating more female than male. Further the data reveal that 72.2 per cent were Sri Lankan Tamil, 26.3 per cent Sri Lankan Muslim (they also speak Tamil), rests Sinhalese and Burgers.
The district had a total of 177,440 families (as mentioned earlier total population 603 192) and of these 31,946 families were headed by woman member (18%). A little more than 83, 000 (in actual figure 83,091) families were dependant on agriculture and paddy is the main crop with average yield was around 4000 kilograms per hectare. Altogether 23,726 families were eking out their livelihoods through fishing both Sea and Lagoon. Therefore, it is evident that primary sector, covering agriculture and fishing, was the source of livelihood for 106,817 families (60 per cent). Further, the data reveal that total milk production in a year was to the tune of 95 lakh litres which were available from three main source viz. cows, buffaloes and goats. There were no large industry till the day of visit but as medium scale industry there were four garments factories in the district. In addition, there were 11, A-category Tourism hotels. The district had little more poverty than the national average – (11.3% in the district) against the national average of 4.1 per cent (as per 2016 report).
During my visit to the district, I had interacted with many persons all in unison praised Indians as peaceful country. Many goods are imported from India so they expressed their happiness with the quality. I also personally feel, people across Sri Lanka (after my two visits) are amicable and hospitable to Indians. Sri Lanka is a worthy place for visit as peace prevails in the country and many of the places have its own importance from tourism point of view. Also Sri Lankan’s tea, coffee, cashew and fish curry have greatly attracted me.
Dr. Shankar Chatterjee
Former Professor& Head (CPME)
NIRD &PR (Govt. of India),