By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Over 100 families have returned the houses given to them in the Ranajayapura Housing Scheme in Ipalogama, Anuradhapura that was constructed by the government for members of the armed forces. Several forces personnel who were allocated houses in the scheme, told The Sunday Leader on the basis of anonymity that about 150 families have returned their houses to the government due to the uncertainty related to the ownership of the houses.
“Although we were given the houses, we have not been given any deed or document stating the house has been given to us,” several former residents said.
The issue had been compounded when the Defence Ministry had requested back about a quarter of the houses in the scheme, claiming they were to be converted into quarters to be distributed among disabled soldiers.
According to some forces personnel, families occupied most of the houses that were taken back by the Ministry at the time.
“We had even cultivated vegetables and fruits in the garden, according to the guidelines issued to us when the houses were allocated, and we had also spent our money making upgrades to the houses. When the houses were asked for, we had to leave them,” they lamented.
The families had then been allocated houses elsewhere in the scheme. “We have to start all over again. Without any proper documentation given to us, the government could request for the houses when they pleased,” a former resident in the scheme who has now returned to a relative’s house said.
There was also controversy surrounding the ownership of the houses when the military last year requested that forces personnel who were allocated houses in the scheme sign affidavits binding them to pay for the houses given by the government.
Following protests by the families in the scheme, the government took back the affidavits and no mention was made about the ownership of the houses.
According to the residents at Ranajayapura, they have been asked to give letters to their respective forces giving their consent to pay for the houses in monthly installments.
However, some families have decided that it was less hassle for them to reside at their ancestral homes or with relatives rather than go through all the red tape.
Military Spokesperson Major General Ubhaya Medawela when contacted said that details about the Ranajayapura housing scheme had to be asked from the Defence Ministry.
When The Sunday Leader spoke to Director General, Media Center for National Security (MCNS), Lakshman Hulugalle on the issues related to the Ranajayapura housing scheme, he denied that houses in the scheme had been returned by forces personnel.
He said that as previously planned during the initial stages of the project, houses were allocated to families that were selected from the three armed forces.
The houses he said have been given to the soldiers’ families at a monthly payment of Rs. 4,000 to be paid for several years.
“The families have given their consent to pay the monthly installment and the houses will be given to them outright,” Hulugalle said.
He also noted that 150 houses in the scheme had been kept separately to be given to soldiers as married quarters.
When asked if the houses identified to be converted into married quarters were initially handed over to families, Hulugalle said the houses were not given to any one.
The Ranajayapura scheme is the first phase of a project aimed at building 50,000 houses for the war heroes by the government. There are 1,509 houses in the scheme.
Out of the total number of 1509 houses, 767 have been allocated to the Army, while the remaining 742 have been allocated to the Air Force and the Navy.
According to the Defence Ministry website, the cost of each three roomed house with bathroom, pantry and a 10 perch land was Rs. 1.4 million. The government has borne Rs. 600,000 of the total cost and the remaining Rs. 800,000 was given as interest-free loans to the recipients, which are expected to be recovered within 10 to 15 years.