Whenever we have imagined Lakshadweep, we always think of natural beauty having dense flora and fauna. Lakshadweep is a well-known place for pollution-free air, clean water, and guest hospitality and convenience. Here one can enjoy the sea driving or a lot of natural pleasure and comfort. The primary shores of this archipelago: The Kavaratti coast, the coast of Kalpani, the Minicoy Beach, the Kadmat Coast, the Agatti coast and the Bangaram coast. Yes! These all are correct, but the concern is that will this be everlasting?
Narendra Modi, The Indian Prime Minister says, Good governance needs self-discipline. Only discipline within can ensure restraint outside. Although, this very idea of good governance seems vague in the recent development that takes place in Lakshadweep. Lakshadweep is a natural beauty located in the lap of the Arabian Sea south-west coast of India with white sands and clear blue waters only 100 KM away from mainland Kerala.
THE CORAL ISLANDS: LAKSHADWEEP
Lakshadweep is a Union Territory of India and controlled by the Government of India. The islands are popular among tourists and run by an administrator appointed by the president of India. As we all know, there are eight union territories in India which include Lakshadweep too. It is an archipelago of 36 coral islands with 65,000 population predominantly Muslims. Kavaratti is the capital of this union territory. Lakshadweep was declared as a Union Territory separated from Madras Presidency on November 1, 1956. Some people called it Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands ages before, but the history changed on November 1, 1973. Now we all know what is famous as Lakshadweep?
In 1982, the formation of Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports (SPORTS) with the avowed aim of tapping the tourism potential of the islands, a society formed by the Lakshadweep Administration. It aims to promote eco-friendly tourism and recreational activities in the islands. SPORTS also acts as the hospitality and catering wing of the Lakshadweep Administration and operates tourist resorts at Bangaram, Thinnakara, Kadmat, Minicoy and Kavaratti. In 1996, the Union Ministry of Tourism awarded SPORTS as the most eco-friendly organisation award. Due to the dedicated efforts of SPORTS, Lakshadweep islands have gained popularity as a unique tourist destination and as a haven for nature lovers in recent years.
HOW THE DILEMMA STARTED IN LAKSHADWEEP?
The dilemma started when Administrator Praful Khoda Patel took charge of Lakshadweep in December 2020. Recently, he introduced legislation about land, living ethos and environment over there with his vision to make Lakshadweep a tourist hub upon the lines of Maldives. It looks all good on the lines of development, who do not want to live in a developed society with better opportunity and income. However, the question is, this bill is so well and promising then, why is there so much uproar against these bills, and why do the several sections of society like islanders, environmentalists, political leaders, and even members of parliament of the same political party? Let us analyze all the changes and look into grey areas.
DRAFT OF LAKSHADWEEP DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY BILL
The administrator proposed a slate of draft rules that provides immense power to the public authority to declare any patch of land as bad layout or obsolete development and recommend the area for redevelopment. It will allow the administration to detain any person without trial for up to a year. Do you remember the Rowlatt Act before Independence? Does it look alike?
This bill is regarded as arbitrary as it was drafted without public consultation. Moreover, according to the 2011 Census, 94.8% of the total population belongs to ST, and they hold just a tiny portion of land that creates panic as they have to relocate regardless of their will. The plan has put the onus on the landlord to develop his holdings as per the planning of authority. For instance, whether the government declares some regions as commercial. So, they have no option rather than making changes to fulfil the obligation.
Another big concern is that less representation in the local body constitutes the declaring region for development or redevelopment. There is something wrong happening here in Lakshadweep. Does it look like it will benefit the real estate giants and work in the interest of the money-making field? So if not, is it necessary to impose such contradictory law without prior consultation, even if it is for the benefit of society?
PREVENTION OF ANTISOCIAL ACTIVITIES REGULATION
May we call it the GOONDA ACT? Some people are already calling it GOONDA ACT. According to national crime data, Lakshadweep has the lowest crime rate in our country so, this data itself demonstrates the cultural harmony among people there. Therefore, what was the need for such an act in such a peaceful place in India? Anyone in the house? However, introducing such laws in such a serene place was termed a racist move by many leaders and social scientists. It is just an idiotic draft to create unwanted panic among inhabitant and treat Lakshadweep as a colony, not as an integral part of India. I have a doubt or speculation. Is this law introduced to curb the voices of people that will rise after the land acquisition bill? Is it a good sign of healthy democracy? What do you believe and comment your views in the box?
LAKSHADWEEP ANIMALS PRESERVATION REGULATION
Does it look like forcing religious politics in the Muslim majority region? Will it not rise to the communal imbalance? This draft has placed several restrictions on the choice of food and livelihood by placing a ban on cattle slaughter and trade, and we have been already knowing, the majority of the population of Lakshadweep belongs to the Muslim community. They eat and trade in beef and even though alcohol, considered haram in the Muslim community. Alcohol’s consumption has been prohibited on the island. The administrator lifted the alcohol ban just for the sake of tourist attraction. Will it not hurt the religious sentiment of people?
ENVIRONMENT DEGRADATION OF LAKSHADWEEP
Some environmentalists believe that the envisioned plan only creates concrete buildings in place of dense forest. It is not viable ecologically and socially also. Do you remember or not? Lakshadweep is a 100% organic island, and destroying the ecosystem for the sake of acquisition will drastically affect not India only but the whole world. There is a lot of development required over the mainland, where you can invest and attract tourists to the region even without destroying the ecosystem.
Let me remind you in 2017, in the name of redevelopment, one of the biodiversity-rich islands in Lakshadweep, PARALI ISLAND, corroded almost 100 per cent. So what are you expecting now? History will repeat itself. There is a saying we should learn from history. Although, humans will never know the importance of this nature till something absurd does not happen.
Several backlashes call on the centre to recall the administrator due to the above arbitrary laws and covid-19 management. Lakshadweep was the only place in India where covid had not reached till January 2021. However, his irresponsibly removing the mandatory quarantine period results in the island witnessing around 7000+ cases in such a small population now.
AUTHOR’S LAST WORDS
Lakshadweep is not only significant from a tourist point of view. It is also a strategic position in the Arabian Sea whenever we compare it to the INDO-PAK War of 1947. Therefore, it allows our defence forces to keep vigil into the sea and protect our country. We live in a liberal progressive society, and debate and discussion are an integral part of it. So, before introducing any law, we must keep the benefit of the inhabitants first and keep them in confidence.
The question is, why should it be a matter of concern? Well, there are many reasons for it as Lakshadweep is a union territory. The central government directly governs the state and also appoints the administrator. Therefore, there is nobody to hear them out. Secondly, it is just a matter of environmental concern and ignoring this will affect the locals. In short, most of the changes are only made to fuel development and for Island’s security. Does Beef Ban not look like the ruling party’s Hindutva agenda? The question arises, why wouldn’t you do that in Goa first. The ruling government should conduct a round table conference and take the opposition in confidence about the need for these laws. I think the beef ban is only to shift focus from other laws to this particular law. Why else would they not ban beef in Goa but do it in Lakshadweep?
Wake up and act!
Thanks for Reading!!!
Composed By: Ankit Rathore