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India to gift 6,800 tonnes of food to SL

Tamils in Jaffna are facing a severe food shortage due to the closure of A9 highway, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2006 18:18 IST

India is to gift 6,800 tonnes of food to the 600,000 Tamils of the Jaffna peninsula who are facing a severe shortage of food since the closure of the A9 highway linking the northern peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka.

An official source told Hindustan Times here on Tuesday, that the gift package would comprise 5,000 tonnes of rice, 1,500 tonnes of sugar and 300 tonnes of milk powder.

Dhal, which was earlier expected to be sent, is not part of the package.

Dhal and sugar are not allowed to be exported from India because of a domestic shortage.

But a one-time waiver in regard to sugar has been given to enable the people of Jaffna to get some of it.

This "one time" aid package from India should enable the people of the Jaffna peninsula to meet their requirements over the next month or so, the official said.

However, the consignments now lying in Chennai, will have to be taken by the Sri Lankan government.

Colombo will have to arrange for a vessel to carry them.

One source said that efforts to get a ship from Dubai had succeeded. But there was no official confirmation.

The ship will have to be escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) because of the unsettled conditions in the northern Jaffna sea.

But the ICRC will insist on a guarantee of safety by the LTTE.

Trade source said that the LTTE would allow this consignment to go through because of the "India Factor".

The LTTE, it is believed, will not antagonise India at a time when sympathy for it is being generated in Tamil Nadu. However, some Tamil nationalists and pro-LTTE elements fear that the Sri Lankan government may use the fact that supplies are coming from India to indefinitely postpone the re-opening of A9.

While the LTTE wants the A9 to be opened, the government is refusing to open it.

The government says that the LTTE will use the road to threaten Jaffna and to collect money by way of taxes and tolls from the users and divert the money for buying weapons.

First Published: Nov 07, 2006 18:18 IST