Welfare Programmes: Janasaviya, Samurdhi and now- Aswesuma- Ideas for Consideration
Posted on July 27th, 2023

by Garvin Karunaratne

We have seen two- the Janasaviya and Samurdhi in action and now are about to march further and have another- Aswesuma.

I came to know the Janasaviya, when at the behest of Governor of the Central Province, Mr Imbulana I wrote out the Programme for the economic development of the Central Province. That was in 1993, when I casually ran into him and he accused me of not working for my Motherland. I undertook a two weeks’ study and assessment of what has happened in the field of development. The Janasaviya was the brains of my friend Susil Siriwardena at best. Its greatness was that while providing financial help, it was also to guide and train people to become productive. Sad to say the sudden demise of President Premadasa saw to the end of that great programme. Susil’s great idea of making the people productive- train them and make them produce died a natural death.

My Programme was to enable every person in the Central Province to become productive, producing something that was required for our country and the plan was to include training, production and marketing. The Governor Mr Imbulana was highly taken up and even before the Central Government could read and understand that programme he commenced implementing it in two Grama Sevaka areas at Hasalaka and Nawalapitiya. It was a per person process of assessment and action through Grama Sevakas- a massive undertaking to make everyone productive- the equal of what was done in the Comilla Programme of Bangladesh in the Kotwali Thana- where over a period of some eight years, professors from Michigan State University and the legendary Akhter Hameed Khan as director of the Comilla Academy did make the Kotwali Thana a highly productive area, doubling the yield of paddy and creating a situ of full employment.

My Programme became stillborn-It was unfortunate that the UNP, was defeated in the election.

Then came Samurdhi, the brainchild of Chandrika . At the beginning- for years- it was only a grant of money per low incomes family and later on, a half hearted attempt was made for the receipients to be involved in some training, which was not really organized – at times it was making the receipients to attend to cleaning the compound of the Mawaranadiya temple adjoining our land. For years seated in the verandah of my home on the main bus route, I have watched people known to me from the village marching on the appointed day to get their goodies. Some of the receipients later were even accompanied by their servants to carry the goodies home. However Samurdhi marched on to become more savings oriented and became a massive programme of goodies. Training people to make them productive unfortunately, lost ground.

And now we come to Aswesuma, which according to all what I have read is a financial grant- perhaps the reading on the wall is- creating the groundwork for a walk over for our President in a future presidential election.

To my thinking what is wrong with Samudhi is – if I am to speak figuratively- is to Provide Fish, rather than teach the people to Fish. This is where we come to the great idea that Susil Siriwardena had in Janasaviya where the attempt was for training the people to become productive.

My thinking is that in any programme of development, making people productive- train them and provide for production comes to be of the greatest importance and this pays heavy dividends in foreign currency when something imported is made locally. Then the sweat of our people create dollars in reality. We need no longer beg for funds from anyone if our people can be trained to become productive. The Crayon Factory that I through the member of parliament Sumanapala Dahanayake established at Morawaka under the Divisional Development Councils Programme in 1971 did produce crayons of high quality and when Mr Illangaratne the Minister for Industries came to know of it banned the import of crayons to our country. This saved dollars that we had spent on imports. I would request our present leaders to think and include this training and productive element in any future programme.

This however is easier said than done and perhaps a rear instance of success is in the Comilla Programme of Rural Development which I have quoted earlier. The only other instance of success known to me is in the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh, where I trained all youth workers in economics- in the art of finding the problems the youth faced in becoming employed- to produce something that Bangladesh needed and training the youth to produce it. The youth workers excelled in engaging the youth training them informally, – it became a massive youth movement where the youth undertook to assess the needs of the people and make something that could be sold. This has been a great success- we never gave anything free to entice them, but we provided ideas for them to rear cattle, buy chicks and ducklings even saving the measly stipend we paid them while they were in training, invest it in buying ducklings and rear them to growth- our youths marched with the ducklings in water logged ponds during the day and in a few months found that they laid eggs that could find a market. That was how that great programme was built up- to move on to make as much as three million youths self employed in the period 1983 to now.

The elite members of the Bangladesh Civil Service who worked with me day in day out in my two year consultancy continued the programme of creating self employment and training the younger officials to continue and develop the programme that has today flowered to be the largest and most successful employment creation programme the world has known. I hold a great regard for members of that Civil Service Asafudddowlah, Ayubur Rahaman, Shaidul Alam, Shamsuddin for having marched on. I purposely quote their names merely to prove that I speak of a real programme that did exist and is being continued today.

Let us look at the economic condition in our Sri Lanka today. According to the facts given by our Department of Census and Statistics, the poverty line was 6177 in 2016 and this has increased to as much as 13,777 in 2022. It is important to note that this increase has added as much as 2.5 million to the poverty fold. As one of our most respected economists- Dr CS Weeraratne says. A recovery and expansion of wage employment in the services and industry sectors will be the key to shift employment from lower paying agricultural jobs and make a dent on poverty”. (The Island; 11/7/23) Again according to the World Food Programme, 6.3 million or nearly 30% of Sri Lanka’s population are food insecure… of these around 5.3 million people are either reducing mealsor skipping meals… this situ is likely to worsen due to high food prices, acute shortage of essential food weak purchasing power etc.”

To drag my experience, I may added that agriculture itself should be developed to find incomes for the people on one hand and also to provide the food that is today being imported. As an instance if we can train school leavers and farmers in our dry zone to turn the melon, red pumpkin, ash pumpkin that is available in plenty from December 2023 to February 2024, we can become self sufficient in making all our jam , fruit juice within a few months. The Dry Zone in Anurdahpura and Tissamahaframa is replete with lush mangoes that can be turned into a fruit drink, to jam and to Mango Chutney all items that are imported by us today. . Of course it requires a massive effort at training the school leavers in schools and the womenfolk in the colonies on how to make. It can be commenced as a pilot programme via the Grama Niladharis and Divisional Secretaries, organized using the schools after schooling hours and end up with Canning Factories scattered in the Dry Zones.

It is a task that can be done, something which I am certain of achieving if called upon. I have done this type of thing earlier and can do it again. This is an idea that may get the attention of our Prime Minister.

Garvin Karunaratne former GA Matara. Consultant to the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and Manpower in 1981-1983.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2023 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress