Centre for Policy Alternatives on 10 June, 2015

Up-Country Tamils: The Forgotten 4.2%

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Sri Lanka has long been synonymous with fine tea; with a plantation history dating back to 1862 to an export value estimated to reach US$ 2,500 million this year, the humble beverage is the island’s pride across the globe. Accounting for nearly 14% of the country’s total export earnings, it is among the nation’s most valuable and prized produce.

However, history has and might continue to overlook the most important cogs in the large machine that is the tea industry of Sri Lanka; the people without whose tireless labour this process would grind to a screeching halt – the workers on the tea estates. Descendants of South Indian labourers first sent here in the 19th and 20th centuries to work in the first British plantations, the ‘up-country Tamils’ or ‘Indian Tamils’ constitute 4.2% of the Sri Lankan population.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives has worked with local government on gazettes and policies to develop estate roads, provide addresses to these communities and to furnish several individuals with identity cards. Information and anecdotes gathered during a field study carried out during the months of March and April in estates across the Central and Uva provinces are now presented in a new immersive photo story, accessible here.

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