Daily Editorial Analysis for 31st May 2021

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A ‘reform wave’ Lakshadweep could do without

Why in News

A slew of regulations introduced by the new administrator of the Lakshadweep group of islands has sparked discontent among its inhabitants.

The IDA framework

  • Specially constituted Island Development Authority (IDA) for the island territories of India, chaired by the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, had, in Kavaratti in 1988, approved a framework for the development of India’s island territories.
  • It held “an environmentally sound strategy for both island groups hinges on better exploitation of marine resources coupled with much greater care in the use of land resources”. Published in 1989, the report carried six recommendations for Lakshadweep.
  • Lakshadweep had its own decentralised political entity from the adoption of Panchayati raj much before the constitutional amendments of 1993, in which the Island Development Council, was mandated to advise the Administrator on development.
  • A paradise set in the Arabian Sea, the archipelago of Lakshadweep gives India a vast and exclusive economic zone with three distinct ecosystems: land, lagoon and ocean.
  • Fishery is a primary occupation The language, except in Minicoy, is Malayalam; in Minicoy, Mahal is spoke, a language akin to the 17th century Dive of the Maldives.
  • The society in all islands is matriarchal. The religion is Islam of the pristine Shafi school of law.
  • Vatteluttu was the earliest script used with its heavy Sanskrit component. With the introduction of Islam, Arabi-Malayalam, with Malayalam in Arabic script and associated with the literature of the Mappilas developed on the mainland.
  • Former Prime Minister like Rajiv Gandhi during his visit to Lakshadweep was concerned about the development agenda for these ecologically fragile territories.

A ‘no’ to the Maldives model

  • Deliberations of the IDA wanted that Lakshadweep, with its land ownership constitutionally protected, be opened to international tourism not as a means of generating wealth for investors from the mainland but to bring prosperity to the islanders.
  • Specifically rejecting the Maldives model, the plan for Lakshadweep required that the industry had to be people-centric and enrich the fragile coral ecology.
  • Lakshadweep today has rainwater harvesting facilities, first introduced in government buildings on every island and now accessible in every home.
  • Solar power, which covers 10% of lighting needs, makes Lakshadweep a pioneer in India’s present flagship initiative.
  • All islands have been connected by helicopter service since 1986, and high-speed passenger boats were purchased in the 1990s by an international tender.
  • A study by the National Institute of Oceanography found practical applications, helping a redesign of the tripods reinforcing the beaches against sea erosion, and ensuring piped water supply especially designed to draw from the fresh water lens that, in every coral island, floats on the saline underground seawater at the core of every coral island, so as not to disturb the slim lens.
  • The islands boast total literacy. Minicoy had among the country’s first Navodaya Vidyalayas. Vernacular building traditions, they are the theme of all government housing projects undertaken in the islands in the 1980s, with leading architects providing the designs.
  • Although the poverty line in terms of GDP is only slightly higher than the World Bank’s poverty threshold, Lakshadweep today has no poor people with good calory intake.
  • The office of the Administrator, Lakshadweep was also among the first in India to be computerized with a mainframe and fax machine; every island in Lakshadweep had a computer by 1990.
  • Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Finance Commissions (1984-2005), this established, in the words of the last of these Commissions “speedy and accurate generation of accounting information that might be needed for purposes of better planning, budgeting and monitoring”.
  • The Government recognises the need to develop policies for enhancing employment opportunities, environment friendly management of fisheries, sanitation, waste disposal and widening access to drinking water, with the youth, having acquired a modern education, preferring salaried jobs over pursuing traditional occupations.
  • Revenue from tourism has declined with the closure of resorts (including at Bangaram) from litigation. A clear policy must include conservation and natural resource management arrived at after wide consultation.
  • Maldives is hardly a suitable model. Water bungalows — an expensive concept and also hazardous to the coral — favoured by the NITI Aayog, may collapse in Lakshadweep’s turbulent monsoon.

Obtuse plans

  • Cow Slaughter and beef
  • Administration seeks to ban the slaughter of cow, calf, bull and buffalo without a certificate from a competent authority.
  • It prohibits the sale, transport and storage of beef and beef products.
  • Penalties include imprisonment for one year and a fine of Rs 10,000.
  • The Administration has not provided an explanation on why the rule was brought in.
  • Two-child Policy
  • Under the Draft Panchayat Regulation 2021, the Administration aims to bar people with more than two children from becoming a member of the gram panchayat.
  • For those who already have more than two children, the regulation does not disqualify them provided they do not have further children after the date on which the rule comes into effect.
  • Serving liquor to tourist
  • The Administration has decided to allow liquor to be served at resorts on inhabited islands.
  • Currently, prohibition is in place on all inhabited islands, with liquor served only at resorts on the uninhabited Bangaram island.
  • Land acquisition powers
  • The Administration brought in a draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) to oversee development of towns on the islands, with sweeping changes in the way land can be acquired and utilised.
  • It talks of declaration of ‘planning areas’ and constitution of ‘planning and development authorities’ for preparing a land use map and register, ostensibly for large projects.
  • Anti-Goonda regulation
  • The draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation provides for powers to detain a person for up to one year to prevent him from “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
  • It allows for detention for anti-social activities from six months to a year without legal representation.
  • Covid-19 SOPs
  • For a year, Lakshadweep did not record any case of Covid-19.
  • Last December, Covid-19 SOPs were diluted by doing away with mandatory quarantine for travelers at Kochi and Kavaratti.
  • Instead, anyone with a negative RT-PCR certificate issued in the previous 48 hours could travel to Lakshadweep.
  • Panchayat rules designed to restrict the population growth in a territory where, according to the National Health and Family Survey-5 (2019-20), the total fertility rate is 1.4 and relaxing prohibition, extant in the Union Territory because of public demand.

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