The Lakshadweep administration, unfazed by the widespread condemnation against their disruptive ‘reforms’, has launched yet another drive – to shift all its offices functioning in Kerala to the island.
According to Lakshadweep islanders, this is an attempt to create a complete “disconnect from Kerala”. Lakshadweep, which historically had had close ties with Kerala, if disconnected from the ‘mainland’ (as they call Kerala) would create a new host of problems for the people of the island on a daily basis.
The language largely spoken in Lakshadweep is Malayalam and a lot of the cargo movement and passenger traffic from the island are routed through Kerala. Besides, most of the islanders come to Kerala for higher education.
In an order dated July 2, 2021, which was issued by the Director of Education, the staffers of the department of education in Kochi have been directed to shift to Kavaratti. The transferred officers include the accountant, stenographer and two clerks. The order also stated that the office material such as the electronic equipment, furniture and files will have to be moved within seven days to the office in Kavaratti in Lakshadweep.
The staffers of various departments such as agriculture, fisheries, industries, environment and forest and animal husbandry located in Kochi have already been transferred by another earlier official order on April 16. The order has been justified as being ostensibly done for ‘the purpose of streamlining’ the work of the offices in mainland and the island.
However, senior political leaders felt there was allegedly another agenda behind this move.
“This is nothing but a systematic effort to bring a complete disconnect with Kerala,” said Elamaram Kareem of CPI (M), an MP from Kerala.
Talking to The Federal, Kareem added, “Kerala is a strong pillar of support for the people of Lakshadweep. There are a lot of protests in Kerala against the reforms introduced by the new administrator. Hence, they want to cut off the ties between Kerala and the island.”
Also, he alleged that there is a conspiracy to shift the island’s judicial administration from Kerala High Court to Karnataka High Court. “They are planning to do it, but they can’t do it merely through an executive order,” pointed out Kareem.
According to Mohammed Faizal, another MP from Lakshadweep, the decision to shift the department of education from Kerala would have a serious impact on the students from Lakshadweep.
“There are around 4,000 students from the island studying in various universities in Kerala. The education department in Kochi used to handle their requirements such as scholarships, stipends and ensure educational schemes are implemented. The students will suffer if there is no office in Kerala,” said Mohammed Faizal.
Traders meanwhile are also upset with the Lakshadweep administration for moving the transportation of all goods to the island from Beypore port in Kozhikode and other places in Kerala to Mangalore Port. This is big blow to both Lakshadweep and Kerala, felt traders.
“Two container vessels have been shifted to Mangalore. Around 150 workers have lost their jobs at Beypore port,” said Ummar Koya, the President of Sailing Vessels Association in Kerala.
“A container vessel used to carry 500 tonnes of cargo (from Kerala to Lakshadweep) a week. Now, the only cargo being carried to the island from Beypore is diesel, everything else has been shifted to Mangalore,” said Ummar Koya, who used to ship cattle and poultry feed to Lakshadweep. He told The Federal that he had a contract with the animal husbandry department for shipping animal feed for ₹10 crore a year and it was recently terminated by the new administrator.
Asker Ali, the Lakshadweep collector, however, has denied that judicial work from Kerala will be moved to Karnataka High Court. “It is false news created by the media,” he said in a recent press release. Both Congress and Left leaders in Kerala dismissed his rebuttal.
“They are actively considering it,” said Kareem.
However, the Lakshadweep administration is facing continuous setbacks from the High Court of Kerala. Recently, a stay has been imposed on the executive order issued by the administration renewing the stamp duty for land registration. The stamp duty has increased significantly to 6 per cent for females, 7 per cent for jointly owned property by male and female and 8 per cent for others.
The stamp duty rate was only 1 per cent before irrespective of gender. The High Court has imposed a stay on the order and asked for further explanation from the Administration.