Explained: Why Some Groups Are Demanding That Lakshadweep Administrator Be Called Back And Why Praful Patel Is Standing His Ground

by Swarajya Staff - May 27, 2021 01:51 PM +05:30 IST
Explained: Why Some Groups Are Demanding That Lakshadweep Administrator Be Called Back And Why Praful Patel Is Standing His Ground file photo
Snapshot
  • On allowing the sale of liquor, Patel said that already illegal sale of liquor in the tourist hub was rampant and allowing it will not only stop the illegal trade, but also ensure safety and help in revenue generation and tourism.

A few days ago, the hashtag “Save Lakshadweep” began trending on the social media platform Twitter. The union territory situated in the Arabian sea has seen some turmoil in the past few months, since passing away of its former administrator Dineshwar Sharma.

After that, Praful Patel, a former MLA from Gujarat, was appointed the new administrator. Since then, a slew of measures taken by him have raised a storm in Lakshadweep.

Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal told India Today that the new administrator was “spoiling the democratic fabric of India” with his “arbitrary ways”.

According to him, during the First Wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lakshadweep islands were a green zone with zero cases because of the collective efforts of the then administrator Dineshwar Sharma, elected representatives and the people. However, immediately after taking charge, Patel changed the policy.

Faizal said:

“We formulated a special SOP putting in place a quarantine system: Anyone who wanted to visit Lakshadweep has to undergo seven days quarantine in Kochi and then, if they have a negative RTPCR test, would they be allowed to enter Lakshadweep, where they have to quarantine for an additional week. This controlled the spread of the virus.”

“We wanted economic activities but we demanded that the quarantine system must remain in place. But he [Patel] did not agree and did away with it, and now Lakshadweep has India's highest positivity rate.”

Another point of contention is draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021.

The regulation proposes ban the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks, whereas beef is reportedly a big part of the islanders’ diet. “Under this act what he is trying to implement is what I should eat or what I should not eat. He is taking away my constitutional right,” said Faizal.

Faizal also alleged that the act seeks to usurp land from locals. “If implemented, it will empower the government to take any piece of land owned by any common man on the islands for development purposes,” he added.

Patel also sought to do away with the non-alcoholic zone status and greenlight liquor bars to promote tourism.

All this raised eyebrows in the Union Territory with over 96 per cent Muslim population. Most of the residents of the island are ethnically similar to the Malayali people of Kerala and speak Malayalam.

Patel’s Anti-Social Activities Regulation Bill 2021, and proposed legislation to make those with more than two children ineligible to contest panchayat elections, are also being opposed.

"These draft notifications are being brought without discussion with elected representatives. This is against democracy," Faizal said.

On the other hand, Patel has defended the proposals saying that the Centre is committed to the development of the islands which could emerge as a bustling tourism hub.

“We should hope that soon tourists from all over the world will head for Lakshadweep to enjoy the nature, and it will become the Maldives of India,” Patel said, adding that the central government was giving especially focussed on policies for that benefit women, youngsters and the poor.

The Agatti airport will be modernised, water villas will be developed, and tourism will be encouraged, he said. He also listed other steps taken by the government in the fisheries, health, education sector for development.

He said that most of those who ruled the UT played the minority card and neglected development. He gave a point by point rebuttal of the allegations against him.

On the beef ban, he says most Indian states do not allow the sale of cow meat, and there will be no harm if it is implemented in Lakshadweep. Article 48 of the Constitution itself directs the government to prohibit the slaughter of cow.

On the new panchayat election rules, Patel said that they will strengthen women’s empowerment in the long run, and that only a draft of the law had been circulated as of date to seek public opinion on the matter.

“This law has provision of reserving 50 per cent of all panchayat seats for women candidates. Their participation in democratic process will increase".

On barring those with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections, Patel clarified that this will not apply to those who already have two children, before the law coming into effect. Such a provision has been implemented by many states in India and upheld by the courts.

Patel also said the Anti-Social Activities Regulation Bill 2021, or the Goonda Act was brought to check criminal activities, especially large-scale smuggling of cannabis and illegal liquor trade and related crimes.

“Those who say there is no crime in Lakshadweep are not telling the truth,” he said.

On allowing the sale of liquor, Patel said that already illegal sale of liquor in the tourist hub was rampant and allowing it will not only stop the illegal trade, but also ensure safety and help in revenue generation and tourism.

There is another reason behind the push for development of the Lakshadweep.

The territory possesses huge strategic significance in the Indian Ocean amidst rising Chinese inroads in nearby countries of Sri Lanka and Maldives.

“It is for the same reason that India has pushed for development projects in Ladakh and the Northeastern states, and also launched tourism promotion in these areas in recent times,” says Prabhash K Dutta in an India Today article.

Meanwhile, several Left and Congress MPs from Kerala have written to the Centre demanding that Patel should be removed from office and his proposals retracted.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi, footballer CK Vineeth, and actor Prithviraj Sukumar have come out against Praful Patel.

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