Vested Interests Running Illegal Businesses In Lakshadweep Fuelling Misinformation And Propaganda, Alleges Collector Asker Ali

Vested Interests Running Illegal Businesses In Lakshadweep Fuelling Misinformation And Propaganda, Alleges Collector Asker AliLakshadweep Collector S Asker Ali
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  • Lakshadweep Collector S Asker Ali addressed the media, clarifying that attempts to derail developmental work in the region were being made by those who led to the region staying underdeveloped even after 73 years.

    Here are some reforms listed by Collector Ali to make Lakshadweep "self-reliant".

A series of administrative reforms introduced in Lakshadweep after Prafulla Khoda Patel took over as the Governor garnered a lot of attention with campaigns painting them as being essentially "anti-Muslim" and the beginning of the "sanghification" or "saffronisation" of the island.

Neighbouring Kerala was quite vocal about its unhappiness with the changes in certain laws, with both United Democratic Front (UDF) and Left Democratic Front (LDF) leaders calling the moves an attempt to "raze the culture and economy of the islands" and equating the reforms to the centre's actions in Kashmir.

Lakshadweep Collector S Asker Ali on Thursday addressed the media, clarifying that attempts to derail developmental work in the region were a brainchild of vested interests whose business motives have led to the region staying underdeveloped even after 73 years.

Ali said the steps taken by the administration in the recent past have ushered in a new direction and momentum to the development of the island. "The administration has laid the foundation for the future of Lakshadweep in a planned way," he added.

Images of the administration having broken down settlements, removal of landing centres under CRZ were doing the rounds calling the moves "cultural evasion" and acts of "destroying the social fabric of the islands". Responding to these allegations, Ali reiterated that "a self-motivated propaganda is being carried out by vested interest," while action to remove illegal encroachments at various places has been on for some time and isn't a recent move.

Among the moves being termed "anti-Muslim" was the rule about those with more than two children not be permitted to contest Panchayat elections. But as clarified, the provision of this Panchayat Act will only apply to the parents of infants born after the due date of notification when notified.

The other criticism was that the beef ban was an attack on the food habits of islanders, 96.58 per cent of whom are Muslim, according to the 2011 census. But according to Ali, the "cow protection" law introduced in Lakshadweep is on the same lines as in many other states of the country. "Only those who are associated with its illegal business and those who have personal interests are propagating against this legislation," explained Ali.

The Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-social Activities 2021 is being called the "Goonda Act" by the opposition leaders demanding it be done away, citing "low crime rate" and "nominal violations of the rule". But, Ali defended the need for stricter laws in the islands to secure the future of its next generation.

"Keeping in view the internal security and the future of the youth, a few days ago 300 kg heroin with an international value of 3000 crore and five AK 47 rifles and 1000 live rounds were confiscated. Similarly, many cases of illegal smuggling of marijuana and liquor and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) have also been reported here. In this small Union Territory, the future of youth here is expected to be clouded by such illegal business," he said, emphasising the need for strict and stringent laws, "so that the youth here are not misguided".

The administration also requested the Food Corporation of India to transport the food grains supplied under NFSA and midday meals to all islands, which earlier landed at one of them and was taken further by locals. "The vested interests misused the arrangement (earlier) and sold the ration in the open market. This practice would now be curbed and there would be a saving in the cost of distribution. The loss caused by the above initiative to the food mafia has prompted them to propagate misinformation campaign," alleged Ali.

Elaborating on the administrative reforms that have "ushered in new direction and momentum to the development in the island," Ali said, "the administration has laid the foundation for the future of Lakshadweep in a planned way,".

Here are some of the reforms listed by the Collector and how they will benefit the union territory and make it "self reliant":

1. Three eco-friendly tourism water villa projects are being developed for tourism development by the Lakshadweep Administration in collaboration with NITI Aayog on the lines of Maldives in Minicoy, Kadmat and Suheli, and the progress on the same shall start from August 2021. With this, tourism will get a new dimension and tourists will get facilities for accommodation and entertainment, and local people will get new opportunities for employment and business.

2. Until now, only low-capacity aircraft (such as ATR aircraft) were able to land at Agatti airport, due to which national and international tourists could come only in small numbers. The administration has started the process of expansion of Agatti airstrip in collaboration with the Government of India. This will enable high capacity aircrafts such as Boeing and Airbus to land here, which shall facilitate connectivity and promote tourism.

3. Keeping in view the disaster management, medical facilities and strategic security, the helipad of Kavaratti is being equipped with night landing facilities so that the Coast Guard and Navy choppers will also be able to park and operate from this helipad.

4. On the agricultural front, there are around 10.5 lakh coconut trees on the island and about 10.5 crore coconuts are produced annually. However, to date, the value addition and marketing of coconut and its produce has not been developed on a commercial level, due to which farmers are not getting fair value of their production.

The administration has taken the initiative with Coconut Development Board, Coir Board Kochi and NCDC to promote value addition and processing of coconut so that the income of the farmers will be doubled.

5 . Tuna fish is found in abundance in the sea here. Approximately 25,000 metric tons of fish are caught every year, of which 92 per cent is tuna fish. But due to the lack of proper arrangement of ice and fish processing here, fishermen do not get a fair price for their catch.

Taking steps in this direction, the administration has set up an ice plant in Minicoy, Bitra, Agatti (in addition to Kavaratti and Kadmat), and an ice plant is being set up in Amini. This will help preserve the value and quality of Tuna Fish.

MOU has been signed with NCDC for state-of-the- art promotion to increase exports of tuna. Along with this, new markets are being explored by NCDC, MPEDA and other institutions for fish exports so that fishermen can get fair value for their products.

6. For economic empowerment and self-reliance of women in the Union Territory, the process has been started to make Lakshadweep the nation's largest hub of seaweed farming through the formation of Women Self Help Groups in the Union Territory.

7. A nursing college, and paramedical college and a new modern high school in Kavaratti and a polytechnic college in Minicoy are being set up to provide higher education opportunities in Lakshadweep.

Mechanical, Electrical and Marine engineering streams, which will start in the coming academic year at the Polytechnic College, will provide the youth of UT, especially Minicoy, a chance to train and join the Merchant Navy.

8. Sea facing hospitals are being constructed in Agatti, Minicoy, Andrott and Kavaratti. In order to deal with the pandemic, two oxygen plants are being installed by the Government of India in Agatti and Kavaratti, and one oxygen plant is being set up in Minicoy through CSR.

Harsha is a staff writer at Swarajya.


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