More curbs in Lakshadweep, as protests against Praful Patel gain momentum

Despite protests against the new regulations in Lakshadweep, Praful Patel continues to impose stringent rules, the latest being on the usage of air ambulances. This controversy is leading to a split in the BJP local unit

Political parties and youth organisations in the island have started a massive signature campaign to submit a mass representation to the President demanding the removal of the new administrator and the revocation of new laws

Amid the widespread discontent and protests in Lakshadweep over the new proposed regulations, the administration headed by Praful Khoda Patel has blithely gone ahead and instituted another ‘anti-people reform’ involving the emergency use of air ambulances.

Lakshadweep’s new administrator Praful Khoda Patel’s draft proposals, which range from banning beef to initiating The Goonda Act (January 28, 2021), have drawn a huge public outcry with many criticising them as a product of a communal agenda against the majority Muslim population in the island with an intention to tarnish their culture and tradition.

According to an order issued on May 24, a four-member committee has to be formed henceforth to approve special sortie evacuation. Air ambulances are the only way for the people of this archipelago to get access to urgent medical care. Earlier, the process was more liberal – the medical officer of the concerned island had the authority to give approval for the emergency evacuation

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The people in need of critical care were flown to the hospitals in Kochi by air ambulance with the approval of the concerned medical officer. But the medical officers have been stripped off this power and a four-member committee headed by the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) will now green light the use of an air ambulance.

Also read: Administrator’s laws put Lakshadweep in the middle of nowhere

An earlier SOP issued on March 17, 2021 had insisted that a medical officer should initiate evacuation through a concerned nodal officer. The objective of the SOP was to ‘minimise/rationalise evacuation’. It is also stated that all the ‘uncomplicated orthopaedic cases’ including hip fracture should be shifted only through ship. The air ambulance is not permitted to be used in such cases.

While the BJP leaders in Kerala have openly defended the administrator, Praful Khoda who has stirred up a lot of anger with his new regulations, the Lakshadweep unit of the party however are protesting against his ‘draconian’ measures.

Eight committee members including the state vice-president, treasurer and the state secretary of the Yuva Morcha have quit the party and sent formal resignations to the Central leadership. “What the BJP leaders in Kerala are saying about Lakshadweep are lies. These allegations that arms and ammunitions have been seized from the island are completely unfounded,” said Hashim, the former state general secretary of Yuva Morcha, who has also quit the party.

He challenged the Kerala BJP leaders who raised these allegations to give evidence about the seizure. “People live here very harmoniously, despite being an island where 99 per cent of the population are Muslims. BJP had members here and we all were working without facing any friction from the people of other political parties,” added Hashim.

Also read: Beef ban to Goonda Act: How an Administrator muddled it for Lakshadweep

Kerala BJP chief K Surendran has alleged that the island is turning into a hub of terrorist activities. All the BJP leaders and television panelists unanimously offer this story to the public but they have failed to bring any details of the seizure – the date, the quantity and category of arms and ammunitions and the people arrested etc.

“They have nothing to substantiate these claims. We cannot tolerate painting the innocent people in this island as terrorists, hence we quit the party” said Hashim. Many other BJP activists in Lakshadweep told The Federal that they had expressed their displeasure with the party leaders for the drastic reforms being brought in by the administrator from the start but the party had not paid heed to their complaints.

The call for the removal of Patel from Lakshadweep is gaining momentum. More political leaders from UDF and LDF have sent letters to the President demanding his immediate removal. Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi lashed out at the BJP in a tweet for having “ignorant bigots” in power who were destroying Lakshadweep. He also added that Lakshadweep is India’s jewel in the ocean and he stands with the people of the island.

V D Satheesan, the leader of opposition in Kerala wrote to the Home Minister Amit Shah demanding the immediate removal of the administrator. Praful Ghoda Patel’s appointment itself is questionable. The Union Government appointed him breaking the convention of appointing IAS officers to the post, pointed out Satheesan.

Also read: Netizens, Kerala film folk condemn new ‘reforms’ in Lakshadweep

Many CPI(M) leaders too have started a series of posts through the party’s Facebook page against the new reforms in Lakshadweep. Dr T M Thomas Issac, former Finance Minister and the State Secretariat member of CPI(M) alleged that BJP is conspiring to plot a genocide in Lakshadweep in the disguise of development.

Despite the chorus of voices raised against Patel’s reforms from all quarters, the termination of contract workers in various departments continues. After the dismissal of 800 temporary workers from the tourism department, 23 teachers tutoring arts and sports from various schools have been dismissed. The reason being given is that since classes are being held online, there is no requirement for arts and sports teachers.

The political parties and youth organisations in the island have started a massive signature campaign to submit a mass representation to the President demanding the removal of the new administrator and revoking the new laws. “We demand a referendum, they cannot impose their decisions upon us,” said Salahudeen, a YouTuber from the island.

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