A slew of proposals ranging from a ban on beef to disqualification of panchayat poll aspirants with more than two children, which form part of draft regulations for Lakshadweep cleared by its Administrator, have led to turmoil in the Union Territory.
Such is the outcry over Administrator Praful Patel’s draft regulations — these include introduction of an anti-goonda Act in the island territory where the crime rate is very low and establishment of a development authority with powers to acquire land for development purposes — that even CPM and Congress leaders of Kerala, across the waters, have protested.
On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Administrator’s actions posed a serious challenge to the culture and life of the people of Lakshadweep. “Such acts cannot be accepted. Kerala has long-standing ties with Lakshadweep. There is a bid to destroy that. Persons concerned should keep away from such a narrow-minded approach,’’ he said.
Several LDF and Congress MPs from Kerala, along with Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal PP, have spoken out against what they call the “autocratic style” of the Administrator. They have written to the Centre, demanding that Patel be recalled and his proposals reviewed.
The Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Patel took charge of Lakshadweep in December last year. Since then, he has come out with drafts of the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation and amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules.
According to Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal, the Administrator had not consulted people’s representatives before coming out with measures and drafts of the proposed regulations.
He said the immediate trigger for the unrest was the draft of the Lakshadweep Development Authority. “It is aimed at usurping people’s land. The Authority will get huge power to take over land without protecting the interests of land owners. There is a move to develop roads as per National Highway standards. Why does Lakshadweep require huge highways? The Administrator is furthering the business interests of people in the mainland,’’ Faizal alleged.
Reached for comment, Patel said the Lakshadweep islands have not witnessed development in 70 years since Independence and his administration was only trying to develop it.
“Not people of Lakshadweep, but a few whose interests are getting jeopardized are opposing (the draft regulations). Else, I do not see anything abnormal in it that should be opposed. The Lakshadweep islands are not very far from Maldives. But Maldives is a global tourist destination and Lakshadweep has witnessed no development in all these years. We are trying to make it a global hub of tourism, coconut, fish and seaweed,” Patel said.
“If we have the Lakshadweep Development Authority, then it can be developed into a Smart City in future. Similarly, what is wrong in having a law related to anti-social activities?” he said.
The ban on beef proposed under the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation has contributed to the unrest in the Union Territory where Muslims make over 90 per cent of the population. As per the draft, no person shall directly or indirectly sell, keep, store, transport, offer or expose for sale or buy beef or beef products in any form anywhere in Lakshadweep.
The draft empowers the Administrator or a competent authority to seize beef or beef products being transported. The guilty can end up with prison terms which may extend to 10 years but shall not be less than seven years and a fine which may extend to Rs 5 lakh but shall not be less than Rs 1 lakh.
According to MP Faizal, the Administrator did not consult panchayat authorities before preparing the draft of the Panchayat regulations (amendment) draft. “There is a proposal to prevent those who have more than two children from contesting the panchayat elections. He has modified the existing rules with an ulterior agenda,” he alleged..
He said people were also agitated over the dilution of norms for serving liquor at resorts. As part of tourism promotion, resorts in populated islands will be allowed to supply liquor. Earlier, liquor was allowed only at resorts in the uninhabited Bangaram island.
The Administrator is also being blamed for the spike in Covid-19 cases during the second wave – in the first wave, it did not report a single case.
The mandatory quarantine for people entering the islands from the mainland was done away with and now only RT-PCR negative reports are required for entry.
Responding to MP Faizal’s criticism that rules were framed without consulting elected representatives, Patel said the very fact that these were draft regulations meant that people could give suggestions. He said the local MP had not spoken to him regarding his opposition to the draft regulations.
On the proposed regulation banning sale or transportation of beef or beef products, Patel said: “Those who are opposing it should tell us why they are opposing it.” On the new Covid-19 entry regulations, he said he had acted in accordance with Central government guidelines.
This story was first appeared on indianexpress.com