Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Village is dead long live the place to call home

I am an outsider with no family ties, living in two villages. One village is peopled with third generation colonists who still refer to the village where the initial ancestor came from as their village. The younger generation have married neighbors, some to conserve property, others to stay close to family, but familiarity certainly appears to breed contempt as all my neighbors living next door to blood relatives seem to be at war with one another. The second village is peopled by the original inhabitants, and they marry from outside the village as a rule, usually the female leaving to live in the husband’s village, and the property being divided amongst the remaining males usually in equal proportion, with the youngest son inheriting the family home, where the parents live till they both pass on.

In both instances, the villages are unable to support all the people, and so the aim of all adults is to leave the village in search of employment. The females work in factories in Colombo, being boarded in rooming houses under very cramped conditions, or go in search of jobs in the Middle East, sending money home to the parents and to save for their ultimate wedding. The males also follow a similar path, and many are in the security forces including the police force, and come home on leave and a marriage is ultimately arranged for them by their parents, if they have not found their life partner nearer where they work. Increasingly with fewer children, the woman also has property, and in some circumstances, the man may go and live in the woman’s village. In that case if the man does not sell his property, his other siblings will effectively take it over. Therefore, the man or woman will want to sell their property so they can develop the remaining property, and often this land is sold to newcomers, like myself, looking to either settle in this place or because the village is now suburbia, where I have a secure long term job in town, and need a place to live, the town being too pricy.

It is therefore important that laws are enacted so that property is more easily disposed of as it is inevitably a reason for a better quality of life, and the old idea of some unscrupulous money-lender wanting the land to increase his land holdings does not hold water. We should therefore not protect the village, but give flexibility to every inhabitant to do with the property as he thinks fit, so that land consolidations can take place for meaningful agriculture and land not suitable for agriculture can be broken up to make small housing units for the suburban homeowner. We can then encourage homeownership, not land ownership, which is an anachronism for growth.

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