Children have only one meal per day: Malnutrition in NPC getting worse due to debt - Prof Tissa Vitharana
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Former North Central Province (NCP) Governor Tissa Vitharana said that small paddy cultivators and their children in the NCP were suffering from severe malnutrition, having only one meal per day due to increased debt owed to various Banks and private money lenders.
He said that according to a 2017 survey on malnutrition, one among eight persons (12.5 per cent) in the NPC were suffering from malnutrition and that the situation has only got worse.
He said these small cultivators are undermined by big companies who are only doing business with those who could meet their requirements in the NPC and in the process, have ignored the small cultivators, thus leading them to obtain loans from private persons and from Banks.
"These poor farmers are busy working day and night to repay the loans and do not have sufficient money to feed themselves and their children."
He also added that during his visit to several villages in Polonnaruwa, it was alleged that there is a paddy monopoly going on, where a reputed person was blocking the poor famers from selling paddy to others and ultimately making them sell it to him for a minimal price.
Prof. Vitharana said that like the small paddy farmers, small scale milk producers and sand miners face immense problems due to outsiders - companies doing business in the NPC that work only with those who can offer them business in big quantities.
Later, it was suggested that the Department of Agrarian Development offered them low rate loans of 7% (annual interest) and during the harvest season to bring it down to 3.5% interest to mitigate the debt issue. "The Department assured that they will work through local banks in the NPC to set up a loan scheme for these poor cultivators."