The beautiful and peaceful islands of Lakshwadeep have chaos at their doorstep. First, it was the onset of covid, the epidemic which the islands were free of till late 2020, and the simultaneous deaths associated with it and now it is the protests and general disagreement of the residents there. The locals are blaming the union administration through the currently appointed Praful Khoda Patel. Patel has been the administrator of Lakshwadeep since December 2020. The locals even blame Patel for bringing covid in the union territory as it was not present before his arrival and his tourism policies are to blame. Patel has brought in several new reforms since him taking over administration which have been under constant scrutiny and are being heavily disliked, not only by the locals but the opposition as well as the rest of the public of India. To get a better point of view first we have to understand what reforms are in question here.
- Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR), which will vest in the Administrator of the islands sweeping powers over land appropriation under the guise of ‘development’. These include, among others, the power to remove or relocate residents of the islands if they come in the way of any planned development projects and to unilaterally take over their land for projects for which no legal challenges will be permitted following its approval by the administration.
- To “stop the sale, consumption, storage, and transport of beef,” with penalties commencing with a minimum jail period of seven years.
- He further seeks to disallow any candidate to contest panchayat elections if they have two or more children.
- Removing the temporary huts, sheds, boats, net-drying facilities, and storage spaces of the local fishing communities—citing violation of coastal zone rules.
- ‘Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities’ Regulation outlaws democratic dissent, curbs freedom of expression and allows the state to unilaterally detain a person without offering a public reason for up to a year in the name of law and order.
Was there a need for these reforms?
Before starting to analyze these reforms as good or bad, there is a thing that needs to be brought in limelight. It’s the appointment of Patel as an administrator, a role which has been traditionally appointed to a civil servant, was given to Patel who is a former BJP functionary and has also served as the home minister when PM Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat.
- Lakshadweep is a fragile ecosystem. Scientists, environmentalists, experts have always ruled against developmental constructions. The bringing of LADR seems undemocratic as it gives sweeping powers to the administrator and with no scope of challenging his decisions. Apart from that Violations to decrees stipulated within the regulation could leave residents facing either life imprisonment or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs. A brazen effort to discourage even the mildest of protests.
- Lakshwadeep is an island with approximately 99% population as Muslim. Banning beef there seems more like aggression towards a particular community rather than serving any good and to think about the penalty of 7 years. These provisions were not present before. It looks like a way to harass a particular community.
- Disallowing Panchayat contenders from fighting if they have two or more children also looks like an attack on the local Muslim population and their leaders as it is very common for Muslims to have more than marriages which can obviously result in more than one child. Seems like a way to bring all the authority personnel under the Hindu bracket.
- Another rampant and less thought of a decision. Studying them now seems like rather than calling them reform they should be called atrocities.
- Lakshwadeep is a territory that registers one of the lowest crime rates in the country. It has a population of a meager 70 thousand and to think about the provision which would unilaterally detain a person without offering a public reason for up to a year in the name of law and order is undemocratic, harsh and a sign of dictatorship.
It seems like the authorities were already aware of the flak and dissent that they were going to face as the reforms are undemocratic and are nowhere in favor of the local population rather they are catering to a more authoritative and dictatorship kind of a vibe. These autocratic reforms have been brought in under the disguise of pandemic and serve a greater political purpose than we can imagine. Was it a well-thought strategy to bring down a peace-loving, beautiful, serene, and breathtaking yet equally fragile island, or was it yet another case of a ruler who could not control his hate for the local population and went berserk? 93 retired top civil servants from across the country have signed a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against a series of controversial decisions by Lakshadweep’s administrator Praful Patel. Lakshwadeep has to get its rights back, otherwise, this will be another beautiful place torn by conflict.
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