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Lakshadweep Administrator Row

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May 27, 2021

Why in news?

  • Praful K. Patel, a BJP politician from Gujarat, was appointed as Administrator in Lakshadweep in December 2020.
  • The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 was introduced recently. The proposals have led to many concerns.

What is the controversy over the Administrator?

  • Mr. Patel is the first politician to become the Administrator of Lakshadweep.
  • Since his arrival in Lakshadweep, he has demonstrated a unique disregard for the people’s concerns and priorities.
  • In March 2021, the Mumbai police named Mr. Patel as an accused in a case.
  • It was related to the death by suicide of seven-time Dadra and Nagar Haveli MP Mohan Delkar.
  • Mr. Patel was named in the suicide note.

What are the key provisions in the draft?

  • The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 gives sweeping powers to the Administrator.
  • It offers power to take over land and forcibly relocate people, and proposes harsh punishment to those who resist.
  • The consumption or sale of beef, a part of the food habits of many, could be an offence punishable by 7 years in prison.
  • Those who have more than two children cannot contest panchayat elections.
  • Anyone could be held in prison without reason up to a year, under a new Goonda Act; in a place that has a very low crime rate.
  • The traditional livelihood of fishing communities has been impeded by the regulations that deny them access to coastlines.
  • Their sheds on the coastal areas have been demolished, saying they violated the Coast Guard Act.
  • Dairy farms run by the administration have been shut.

What are the concerns?

  • The changes introduced come as a serious threat to the people of Lakshadweep and the fragile ecosystem.
  • There is clear absence of any administrative rationale or public good in the above arbitrary measures.
  • There are thus fears of other motivations.
  • Commercial interests could be at play.
  • The land that inhabitants are forced to part with could be transferred to buyers from outside.
  • There could also be ill-advised political plans to change the demography of the islands.

What is the larger priority?

  • Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands totalling 32 square kilometres in the Arabian Sea.
  • It has had an idyllic existence as a Union Territory (UT), with a population of around 70,000.
  • The rationale for carving out UTs as administrative units is to protect the unique cultural and historical situations of their inhabitants.
  • This being under threat, people have risen in protest.
  • But far from listening to them, the Administrator seems insistent on his plans.
  • The Centre is inverting its responsibility to protect into a licence to interfere.
  • The Centre should recall the Lakshadweep Administrator and drop his ill-conceived plans.
  • The territory and its ecology should be protected and the islanders should be reassured.

 

Source: The Hindu

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