What’s Really destroying Lakshadweep Island. Voice and Understanding Problems of the Island

The residents of the Lakshadweep Islands take pride in their traditional culture, while maintaining significant environmental safeguards to protect the island. The islands are protected under special provisions where liquor sales are not allowed, outsiders cannot buy land there, moreover, non-residents cannot visit the islands without special permission from the administration.

The 10 inhabited islands of the Union Territory are under lockdown for two months now and the Dweep administration is accused of exploiting the inability of the public to mobilise to push what’s widely seen by the islanders as ‘arbitrary legislations’ that are out of sync with the social, political and environmental realities of the archipelago. The latest draft regulation for the creation of a Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA) is widely resented as the people suspect that this might have been issued at the behest of ‘real estate interests’ seeking to usurp the small holdings of property owned by the islanders, a majority of them (94.8% as per the 2011 census) belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.

Who is the administrative in-charge of Lakshadweep?

Praful Patel, BJP leader who has been appointed as the administrator of Lakshadweep since December 2020. He was the former home minister of the state of Gujarat.

What are the administrative reforms he has introduced?

An Island in the Arabian Sea where the crime rate is already low, New administrator Praful Patel introduced a proposal to implement the anti-social Activities Regulation bill, 2021, or the goonda act. Under this act, anyone can be arrested without a trial for a period of up to one year.

A New draft on the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) has been another bone of contention. The draft gives the administrator complete powers to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any developmental activity. The draft bill gives the government and its bodies arbitrary and unchecked power to directly interfere with an islander’s right to possess and retain their property.

The new proposal also includes introduction of liquor shops on the islands, to fuel tourism, which thus far have been restricted owing the majority Muslim population. A change is also being brought about to the Panchayat regulations wherein those people having more than two kids would be unable to contest for any panchayat elections.

Among a string of changes, a beef ban has been proposed and non-vegetarian meals have been scrapped from the midday meals. As for Covid norms, earlier on the islands a mandatory 14-day quarantine was put into place, however now a negative RT-PCR would suffice to enter the islands. This has caused concern for the locals.

Kerala lawmaker Hibi Eden, wrote a letter to to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi. In the letter, he claimed that the many government contract employees in the tourism sector were terminated without any reason. “Majority of the 70,000 people in this Island depend on fishing and government services, but the new administration demolished huts of fisherman accusing Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violation,” he wrote.