With more than 300 dwellings made out of wood and gunny sacks the residents are battling to survive on their own as they have been neglected by the different governments.
Living by the city's garbage dump and making their living from the garbage, their whole world has become a garbage dump. Not only are the mothers and fathers eagerly collecting whatever refuse they could use to make their lives 'comfortable' at the dump site; but the little ones too have learned to help their parents. The dump has become the haven for the children. They play on the dump and the rotting rotten food that they find are eaten without a second thought. For them, the delicious food comes from the garbage.
Although they are the most suitable segment in the country to receive Samurdi they are deprived of any sort of relief. Despite the garbage and the stench, they remain happy but their only request is to have electricity at least to the walkways. The Armor Street Ceylon Electricity Board however has requested them to bring a letter from a politician from the governing party if they are to be given lighting to the pathways. It is disheartening to note that the government departments, which run with the aid of public money too have become politicized.
"Earlier Jayantha mahaththaya (referring to a former UNP Colombo Municipal Councilor) gave lights to this watte (garden) but two years ago it was disconnected and at there is complete darkness in the night. The young girls cannot move around as 'grease yakkas' (devils covered in grease) try to drag the girls for their pleasure. There are many thieves and we cannot move out even for a second during night as they steal our pot of rice - our only meal for the day," lamented these innocents.
Meanwhile they further stated that although they complained about the grease yakka and the thieves to the Grandpass Police Station they have so far not yet taken action to apprehend the culprit.
"Recently I saw someone peep from the roof and when I shouted he ran away.. All the men around us ran behind him but failed to catch him. Later we found out that this grease yakka comes in the nude to drag girls. It is unfortunate that the police who are here for our protection have so far failed to deploy a constable to ensure our safety. The police ask us to identify the grease yakka and the thieves. If we are aware of the identity of the grease yaka and the thieves then we would have not gone to the police,"" they added.
When The Sunday Leader visited the punchi Somaliyawa last week, the residents thronged around the vehicle to find out whether we have arrived with food and dry rations. But realizing it was not so, not only the elders the little ones too were disappointed.
According to them when it rains the water from the dump comes into their houses and as their cozy beds are the non cemented floor they are deprived of at least the sleep that they really need. "We only see a fairy tale world in our dreams. But because of the rain we are deprived of having even a pleasant dream as we are awake till morning. We keep our children on our laps. Due to this water and garbage entering our hopes we cannot light the hearth," added the people.
When asked why they failed to tell their grievances to their 'people's representatives' they told The Sunday Leader that they do not know where they live and who represent them in the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).
"We see new faces only during the election time. They come to get our votes promising sun and the moon but after the election they vanish," they said.
Adding to their unhappy livelihood is the present skyrocketing cost of living which has pushed them from pillar to post. According to them their small children are now fed with plain tea as the price of a packet of milk powder is unreachable. The boutiques at punchi Somaliyawa sell milk powder in small quantities.
One ounce of milk powder is priced Rs.18 and if they could collect money they buy an ounce for the children. For them with the latest price hike in food their main three meals have now been reduced to one. "We cannot afford to eat three meals. Each family here comprises at least five members so with the price increases in bread, flour, rice and manioc how can we afford to eat three meals. If we want to eat bread we have to buy at least two and a half loaves and if it is rice we need a kilo is needed. It is the same situation with the manioc. Even if we manage to buy some wheat flour what could we make with it. To eat rotti how can we buy a coconut? Although we could buy half a coconut, that too costs Rs.20. Who can afford to pay Rs.20 for the coconut," they asked.
Their only source of income is either to sell the pieces of firewood that collects from the garbage dump or to do any daily paid job. But as those who offered 'odd' jobs to people have now found it difficult because the employers too have begun to think twice before employing labourers owing to the high expenditure that they themselves have to incur.
Although mosquitoes and flies are everywhere, be it during the day or night, according to these residents, the CMC has never visited this area to spray chemicals or even tried to take any action to eradicate this menace. "Each house has at least three small children. We are worried about dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases which we hear are spreading near garbage dumps," they said.
It is their request that the mayor, CMC or any other responsible officer construct a proper waste water drainage system as the waste water too has become a nuisance to the residents.
"This becomes worse during rainy season. We are suffering immensely but those who are in the power owing to our votes are living comfortably. We are waiting to 'greet' the politicians in a 'different' way when they come begging for our vote next time. Unless we teach them a lesson they will not realize their mistakes," they said angrily.
These are what these innocent shanty dwellers had to say about their grievances-
Sandeepani who is twelve years old told The Sunday Leader that she has not eaten any food for the last couple of days as her mother cannot afford to buy bread for them. "I am the eldest of four. Our father left us a few years ago and the only meal what we get is from the school. Today I had some green gram at school. That is the only meal for the day," Sandeepani said.
When asked as to how they manage their hunger little Sandeepani innocently said that they could manage their hunger with water. "We can starve as we are used to this. I do not know the taste of milk and I have never tasted fish, meat or any other good food. Since I do not know its taste I do not like to eat," Sandeepani said.
Shashikala, Amalez, Renuka, Nazwar were also relating tales of want and starvation. . They spoke of their great need for Samurdi. "Please give us Samurdi as we are the most eligible people to get this. With the prices of kerosene oil too at its peak we do not light a lamp at home and have to in live darkness. Why cannot the government give us a kerosene oil card? Nothing is done to help us but they seem to serve them selves," they said in disappointment.
Meanwhile S. Mohammed whose child goes to Amzar Maha Muslim Vidyalaya told The Sunday Leader that his child was asked to pay Rs.250 for the National Identity Card (NIC). "Being a government school why did the school asked the children to pay Rs.250 for the NIC. We brought the photos but why ask Rs.250? When I asked for a receipt the school refused and to add to this burden my child was asked to bring Rs.400 for the GCE O/L exam. The school authorities have pointed out that those who do not bring the money will not be sent for the exam. Is there a regulation as such? I want to clarify this from the Education Ministry," Mohammad said.
It is the responsibility of the government to look after these innocent people who were deprived of Samurdi and other basic facilities that they are entitled to.