Lakshadweep’s Administrator Praful Patel has courted controversy over several proposals that he has cleared for the small Union Territory. Some of the proposals, part of draft regulations, have drawn flak from the Congress and CPI(M) from across the waters in Kerala.
The prominent measures are: a ban on beef, disqualification of panchayat poll aspirants with more than two children, and introduction of an anti-Goonda Act in the island territory where the crime rate is very low. Another proposal is setting up of a development authority with powers to acquire land for development purposes.
Lakshadweep is an archipelago in the Arabian Sea, around 300 km off the southwestern Malabar coast of India.
On Monday (May 24), 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.
LDF and Congress MPs from Kerala, along with Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal PP, have hit out at the “autocratic style” of the Administrator. They have written to the Centre, demanding that Patel be recalled and his proposals reviewed.
Patel took over as the Administrator 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.
Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal says the Administrator had not taken people’s representatives into confidence. The immediate cause for the unease 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.
Patel, however, told The Indian Express that Lakshadweep islands have not witnessed development in 70 years since Independence and that his administration was 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 the 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 told the IE.
“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 asked.
The beef ban under the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation has contributed to the unrest in the UT where Muslims are 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.