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Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 16:11 GMT


World: South Asia

Tamils demand better treatment

Tamil tea pickers are among the worst paid workers in India

An organisation campaigning for the Indian Tamil community in Sri Lanka has called on the government to clamp down on alleged acts of discrimination and violence against them.

The Indian Tamil network has written to President Chandrika Kumaratunga calling for greater police efforts over an arson attack against Tamils six months ago.

The Indian Tamil network has called for more effort to find and punish the group responsible for attacking homes on a tea plantation in the southern Ratnapura district last September.

400 homes burned down

The incident began when local villagers decided to take revenge for the killing of a trader from the majority Sinhalese community.

More than 400 homes belonging to Indian Tamils on the tea plantation were destroyed, and the workers escaped by taking refuge in the tea factory.

Only two people have been arrested so far in connection with the arson attacks.

The local MP, Mr Rajan, said police were powerless as the tea worker victims were too scared to come forward because they feared further reprisals.

Those affected were given money for temporary shelters and their homes are being rebuilt, but many said they wanted to leave the area altogether.

Lowest paid workers

Indian Tamils were originally brought to Sri Lanka by the British colonialists to work on the tea plantations and were only granted full citizenship 10 years ago.

They are among the lowest paid workers in the country - with a tea picker earning less than two dollars a day.

Their representatives have also called for affirmative action to ensure proper education, health facilities and work opportunities for them.



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