TURMOIL IN LAKSHADWEEP
Locals say the problems in Lakshadweep, a beautiful island archipelago off the coast of India, started the day the new government-appointed administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, came on a charter aeroplane.
The Lakshadweep Islands, an Indian union territory off the coast of Kerala, are famous for their crystal-blue seas, white sands, and low population density.
They had also been completely unaffected by the virus up to that point due to strict mobility limits and enforced isolation.
On that day, 2 December 2020, India’s Covid-19 cases had exceeded 9.4 million, yet not a single incidence had been reported across Lakshadweep’s 36 islands.
Since February of this year, a spate of new regulations proposed by Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel has sparked widespread outrage.
Much of the criticism appears to be directed at the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA), the Animal Preservation Regulation, and the Panchayat Regulation.
The Union Home Ministry is currently reviewing these three legislation. In contrast, the proposed Lakshadweep Development Right Regulation 2021 allows the administrator the authority to purchase any land required for a public purpose.
While PASA enables the administrator to detain someone for up to a year if their actions “adversely influence the maintenance of public order,” the Animal Preservation Regulation forbids the killing of cows, calves, bulls, or bullocks. According to the Panchayat Regulations, anyone having more than two children are ineligible to join a programme panchayat.
Opposition lawmakers from the Congress, NCP, and CPI(M) have questioned the necessity for PASA, noting the islands’ low crime rate in comparison to the rest of India.
The opposing viewpoint is not wrong.
On the islands, just 121 crimes were recorded in 2017, 86 in 2018, 186 in 2019, and 89 in 2020. A “Save Lakshadweep” movement has gained traction across India, with dozens of MPs writing to the national government. The Kerala state assembly, which was incensed by Patel’s conduct, unanimously passed a motion demanding that the administrator be removed from his office.
SAVE LAKSHADWEEP FORUM
According to the Save Lakshadweep Forum, an organisation created to organise demonstrations against the new regulations, the majority of local residents would go on hunger strike in their homes. Residents of Lakshadweep embarked on a 12-hour hunger strike and staged demonstrations around beaches and their houses in protest of a set of proposed legislation. According to the forum, all stores would be closed throughout the 12-hour period save those providing emergency services. The protests are being viewed as the Union Territory’s first significant pushback to the proposed restrictions.
Residents of the islands were seen holding signs that said, “Let us live quietly on the land where we were born” and “We are not anti-development; don’t propagate false information.”
HOW ADMINISTRATOR OFFENDED?
Patel has defended the planned rules in the face of widespread criticism, stating that they are efforts to improve the region and aid its inhabitants. “Why isn’t anyone discussing the progressive elements of panchayat regulation?” wondered Praful Patel. It would pave the way for women’s empowerment and advancement.”
Lakshadweep Collector S. Asker Ali, on the other hand, feels the public outcry is unjustified.
“I feel Lakshadweep has a low crime rate. But how can he be certain that it will always be this way?” he thought. “We are developing the island as a tourist attraction. Shouldn’t we be ready to cope with any law and order problems that occur as a result of more tourism?”
The government of Lakshadweep has justified its activities, stating that it was laying the basis for the islands’ future development in a planned way, and that it will be built along the lines of the Maldives in two decades.
People and officials on the islands also underline that the dispute is not between Hindu philosophy and the Muslim population, as some media outlets portray it. They argued that previous administrators appointed by the BJP administration had done a good job. They stressed that their fight is against Praful Patel as a person. “There is no sense of belonging here.” He made these modifications on his own initiative.
Hence, there is need of proper consultation their administration should explain the pros and cons of laws and should include the changes if any required.