Yuva - India

Lakshadweep Administrator: developer or destroyer?

Lakshadweep is the smallest union territory of India with its total surface area 32 square kilometre (12 sq. mil). The region forms a single Indian district with 10 subdivisions. Its capital is Karavatti and the region comes under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court. Lakshadweep consists of 36 islands but currently, there are only 35 as one of them is submerged in water due to sea erosion. Many of the islands of it are inhabited. According to the 2011 Indian Census, the population of the union territory was 64,437. The culture of this union territory mostly resembles that of Mappilas, the nearest mainland state of Kerala. Most of the people are descendants of migrants from the Malabar Coast of southwest India and are ethnically similar to Malayali people. More than 93% of the population are Muslims, the majority of which belong to the Shafi School of the Sunni sect. This makes it a Muslim-dominated union territory.

Unlike states, which are run by elected Chief Ministers, Union territories are administered by the President through an Administrator appointed by him. In the Union Territories, Lieutenant Governors are appointed by the President of India who serves as their administrators. Puducherry and Delhi form an exception in this matter which has an elected legislature.

On 4th December 2020, news came out that Lakshadweep’s administrator and former Intelligence Bureau Chief Mr. Dineshwar Sharma aged 66, passed away at a Chennai Hospital. After his death, Praful Patel, a BJP leader, who had served as the Home Minister of Gujarat under Chief Minister Narendra Modi, took over as the new Administrator of Lakshadweep. After taking over as the administrator of this union territory, Praful Patel implemented certain reforms.

Some of the reforms brought by Praful Patel was conducting several raids across the union territory to fight the growing menace of alcohol and drug consumption and addiction among the youth. After assuming responsibility, he even imposed the Goonda Act in the union territory to tackle the problem of smuggling and distribution of alcohol and drugs, in a view to maintain public order. The administration even pulled down the Anti-CAA/NRC posters put up by radical Islamists throughout the island.

Intending to optimize and boost tourism, Praful Patel has been reportedly trying to bring in projects which will help develop infrastructure. He also gave nod to liquor bars in the island which was a non-alcoholic zone due to its demography. He also gave a nod to banning beef as well.

After bringing these reforms, Praful Patel has been facing the heat from the communists as well as Islamists who see these reforms as “anti-people”. A large chunk of people from Kerala, including celebrities, politicians, social media users, and the common citizens are extremely angry over these changes brought by the newly appointed administrator. Several leaders from Kerala have also written to the Centre and President Ram Nath Kovind citing various reasons that these new reforms have been destroying a peaceful part of the country.

KC Venugopal a Congress leader, who is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha elected from Rajasthan, wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, requesting him to urgently intervene in the matter related to the reforms brought by Praful Patel, which he considers as unilateral and anti-people policy and he believes that it has created a huge amount of unrest and protest among the local population there.

Kerala Chief Minister said in a press briefing, “The news from Lakshadweep is very serious. The situation there poses a challenge to the life and culture of the people inhabiting the island. Such moves are unacceptable.”

He also said, “We know Lakshadweep and Kerala have a connection for long. All over Kerala, we can see students from Lakshadweep. As per news reports, now there is a deliberate, malicious attempt to distort this connection. This is part of narrow interest. It is condemnable.”

Elamaram Kareem, who is a Kerala Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament also wrote to the President requesting to urgently call back Praful Patel, accusing him of “ulterior motive to destroy the traditional life and culture of the island.”

Kareem has been referring to the draft of Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulations, 2021 also known as LDAR, 2021 which was the main reason behind the public hue and cry and many people demanded that this act be revoked.

https://cdn.s3waas.gov.in/s358238e9ae2dd305d79c2ebc8c1883422/uploads/2021/04/2021042854.pdf

Kareem in his letter referred to implementing undemocratic modifications such as the “Animal Preservation Act” which was used to ban all beef slaughter and consumption on the island. He also pointed that alcohol restrictions have been relaxed on the island which goes against the cultural and religious sensibilities of the majority.

Actor Prithiviraj Sukumaran also gave out a statement opposing these reforms.

According to a report by OpIndia and Organiser emphasize, the Islamists have been accusing Patel of undermining the “Islamic Character” of Lakshadweep where Muslims constitute over 93% of the total population.

Few people came to support these reforms.

BJP national vice president A. P. Abdullakutty raised his voice slamming actor Prithviraj Sukumaran after the actor took to social media and raised his concerns over these reforms. Abdullakutty said that the actor is fabricating fake stories on Lakshadweep.

Defending Praful Patel, he said, “As of now consumption of liquor is permitted on Bangaram Island that allows foreigners. This decision was taken during the Congress regime at the Centre when the late P. M. Sayeed represented Lakshadweep. Now the proposal is to serve liquor to domestic tourists at resorts in Minicoy and Kavaratti islands.” He also put emphasis on the fact that the decision to ban beef and chicken in mid-day meals in school has been taken after consulting experts.

He further stated that another reason for the trigger and outcry against Mr. Patel is the fact that he introduced the LDAR that gave the administrators the power to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any other developmental activity. However, this proposal will also be implemented only after reaching a consensus with the citizens and all political parties, said Mr. Abdullakutty.

Praful Patel has been trying to prioritize Lakshadweep’s development and improve tourism opportunities but the Islamists backed by certain politicians have been crying foul over these developments.

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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