Against the backdrop of widespread condemnation of controversial draft reforms that will impact the unique socio-economic fabric of this island, the Lakshadweep administration continues to blithely slap new orders in the pristine archipelago.
In the latest order, dated June 2, 2021, under the guise of the need for “intelligence gathering”, a government servant will henceforth have to accompany the fisherfolk from the island whenever they go out to the sea.
According to the order, accessed by The Federal, the following decisions have been taken in a meeting chaired by A Anbarasu, Principal Secretary to the Administrator;
- To depute a responsible government servant on board the local fishing boats so may be deemed fit for intelligence gathering
- To strengthen the security measures to monitor the local fishing boats and crews
- Instructions should be given to intensify the checking of motorised vessels and other passenger vessels reaching the island and to share the pre-arrival information of boats
The order has further instructed that CCTV cameras have to be installed in all berthing points and helibase of ships/boats.
Another order has been passed to improve ‘cleanliness’ on the island. The order issued by the Lakshadweep Collector Asker Ali stated that even coconut shells and tree leaves should not be left strewn around on private or public premises. According to the order, “Tender coconut shell, tree leaves, coconut husk, coconut shell, trunks etc., in and around dwelling places/public places must be disposed off scientifically by the land owners. No person is allowed to throw or break or spread coconut, fruits leftovers, and vegetables on roads, foot paths and beaches. Disposal by burning any type of solid waste is prohibited.”
The order further said that ‘all the residents in the Union Territory’ should keep the peripheral area of 25 meter radius of their households litter free or the responsibility shall be fixed on the dwelling house/resident. The order even placed a ban on disposing of solid waste in one’s own private land. The solid waste has to be disposed in the prescribed manner spelt out in the order and in recommended places.
“These are Tughlaq reforms,” said Mohammad Faisal P P, the MP from Lakshadweep to The Federal. “There is no solid waste management plan in Lakshadweep. There has been a proposal for the same since 2018, which has never been implemented. Now, the people are warned that they will be fined even if a coconut leaf is found in one’s private home. The order says that waste has to be disposed in designated places, where are the designated places? There is no such waste management plan here,” added Faizal, blasting the new reforms implemented by the Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel.
“Moreover, Lakshadweep is the land of coconuts, coconut farming is the major source of livelihood apart from fishing,” he said.
According to the people of Lakshadweep, the Administrator is also trying to isolate the island from the mainland. Earlier, the entry to the island was very liberal and there was abundant traffic from the mainland Kerala to Lakshadweep. According to an order dated May 29, 2021, the sole authority to provide permit for entry is now the Additional District Magistrate (ADM). All requests for entry henceforth have to be made to the ADM through the Deputy Collectors or Block Development Officers of the concerned island.
Meanwhile, the closure of dairy farms has led to the death of cows by starvation in the island. After the closure of dairy farms, authorities have put animals up for auction, but the islanders, as a gesture of protest, boycotted the auction and the cattle went unsold.
A letter sent by the Assistant Veterinary Surgeon in Minicoy to the Director of the Department of Animal husbandry is a clear signal of the impact of such short-sighted decisions. The letter stated that “the stock of variety feeds for poultry and cattle is complete exhausted. Unit is facing difficulty in feeding cattle and 650 numbers of birds owing to non-availability of any type of birds”. The letter further stated that the cattle are starving and one has already died of starvation.
According to the people of the island, buying animals on auction is not a viable idea since the island is all set to implement a beef ban. “Followed by the introduction of Amul products, selling of milk would also be non-profitable, then why should we participate in the auction? Not only that, we boycotted it as an expression of protest,” said Lukman, a resident of Kavaratti in Lakshadweep.
The ‘Save Lakshadweep Forum’, a collective of all the political parties and organisations in the island, has called for a one-day hunger strike on Monday (June 7). People have posted pictures of entire family members carrying placards participating in the protest in their homes.