By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, May 29:
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and certain leaders from Kerala have sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop the new regulations in Lakshadweep island.
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021 introduced by Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, a former Gujarat BJP leader, stipulate some sea changes in the administration of the tiny island.
The three policies, which have drawn the ire of the local populace and politicians include the proposed cow slaughter ban, the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, which allows the police to detain a person without any public disclosure for a period of one year, and the draft panchayat notification, where a person with more than two children is disqualified from being a panchayat member.
Pawar and Gandhi in their letters have urged Modi to intervene and remove “draconian” causes in LDAR. Similarly, Elamaram Kareem, the CPI(M)’s Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala, which neighbours Lakshadweep, has alleged that the draft LDAR is meant for big corporate since the land of the farmers will be acquired arbitrarily in the name of development.
The Congress has also written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking his intervention in recalling Patel. Besides the people of Lakshadweep have approached United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as the United Nation’s Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, against the actions of Patel.
Also, the Shiv Sena has pointed out that Muslims constitute 93 per cent in Lakshadweep. As such the ban on beef is unwarranted. No such ban exists in BJP ruled Goa. Similarly, no such ban exists in most of the northeastern states. Then why the ban on consumption of beef in Lakshadweep, the Shiv Sena has questioned in an editorial in its party mouthpiece “Saamna”.
The LDAR draft regulation grants the administrator the power to “declare any area to be a planning area” on the islands, for the purpose of development, and will also allow the administrator to acquire any land required for a public purpose under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
However, Patel has maintained that he intends to develop Lakshadweep like neighbouring Maldives, a renowned international tourist destination. ”The draft LDAR will usher in development and go a long way in improving the social and economic indicators on the islands, which have so far lagged behind despite having the potential,” he has said.
“The islands are similar to the Maldives and we want to develop them on similar lines. We want to develop sustainable infrastructure and promote sustainable tourism. You see Maldives…. tourists are waiting in a queue to visit there.” As against this, on average, 5 lakh travellers land in Lakshadweep every year. At present, tourism activity is restricted to only government operations and an entry permit is mandatory for all tourists visiting the islands. The Lakshadweep has lagged behind in key development indicators, Patel has said.
Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands, of which 11 are inhabited. They have a total geographical area of 32 sq km and the population of approximately 70,000 has a low per capita income and a high unemployment level of 13 per cent, according to the statistics made available by the authorities in the UT.
LDAR in detail
1.Prohibition of slaughter without a certificate from a competent authority
Praful Patel has proposed the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, which bans slaughter of the cow, calf, bull and bullocks. Animals should be slaughtered only at places specified for the purpose. The sale and purchase of beef and beef products are banned under the proposed law. Persons who slaughter animals without a certificate are liable to be punished with imprisonment extending to one year and a fine of up to Rs 10,000. Besides, in February, mutton and chicken were removed from schools’ midday meal menus. Children had been provided nonvegetarian meals at Anganwadis till then
2. Land regulations
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation proposes changes in the existing land ownership and usage by giving sweeping, arbitrary and unchecked powers to the government to directly interfere with the islanders’ right to possess and retain their property. It empowers the government to pick any land for development activities Activities including building, engineering, mining, quarrying and other operations have been listed under development activities
3. Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act 2021
The proposed law gives powers to detain a person without any public disclosure for a period of up to one year. Locals fear that bill will pave the way for detention without a trial and say that such a harsh law is not required. The island has a negligible crime rate, all the more reason why the law is suspect
4. Bar on election contest
The draft Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021 says if a resident has more than two children, he/she cannot contest a panchayat election. “No person who has more than two children shall be a member of a gram panchayat or continue as such…” the draft text of the regulation says
5. Plans to allow sale of liquor
The administrator allowed sale of liquor at hotels and resorts in three islands in the name of tourism promotion. The Muslim majority island territory has remained a non-alcoholic zone for decades. Liquor sale was allowed only in Bangaram islands till now. Liquor was not allowed in other islands and travellers were not allowed to carry liquor
6. Winding up of dairy farms
Dairy farms operated by the Animal Husbandry department have been shut down. On May 21, dairy farms of the local government were also ordered shut; all animals are to be auctioned by May 31
7. Coastal regulations
The island administration has demolished huts erected by fishermen along the coastline alleging violation of Coastal Regulation Zone and Coast Guard Act. These sheds were built by fisherfolk to keep their nets and fishing gear. The sheds were constructed under an exemption provided to the fisherfolk
8. Cargo diverted to Mangalore
The administration has diverted freight transit to Mangalore, ending the trade ties between the islands and Kerala. The islanders depend on ports of Beypore and Kochi for logistics and medical facilities.
9. Termination of services of employees
Services of hundreds of contract labourers working under various departments of the Union territory have been terminated. Casual and contractual workers of various government offices have been dismissed. The recruitment rules will be reviewed where the educational qualifications do not match the latest developments.