Updated: May 25, 2021
I became stupendously curious like any other monkeys, when I heard about the Lakshadweep, the smallest union territory of the country consisting of a group of 36 islands situated off the coast of Kerala with an area of 32 sq km which suddenly became the center of attraction of Social Media and my eccentricity hiked to its heights when I happened to open the twitter pages with ha(r)sh tags #SaveLakshadweep. I got delighted to see the facebook post of Mr. #PrithivirajSukumaran, the young and adorable superstar of Malayalam film industry, who sincerely made a touching post on the plight of the poor citizens of the Lakshadweep. I haven’t paid any attention to the politically drafted letters, salted with factionalism, of the political leaders and meaningless clamors of their henchmen, as I had progressively developed an unknown aversion to such kind of people who are making weird noises like pigs at the stroke of the midnight. But I overheard the punchlines such as beef ban, oppression of muslim community by a Gujarati RSS administrator, failure of federal structure etc through those loud noises. I also happened to read the letter written by Mr. #ElamaramKareem to the President of India airing his concerns over various atrocities happening in the Island under the supervision of the Administrator and he accused the Central government for disturbing the religious and peaceful life of the people of the Island. He, by sitting in Kerala which is drastically affected by Second wave of Covid, had accused the Administration of Lakshadweep for the spike happened in the Covid cases in the Lakshadweep and noted that the said spike is due to the protocol change made by the Administrator of the Island!. Though I am fully aware about the strategic importance of the islands, which is near to Maldives and Srilanka where the Chinese had made huge strategic investment in recent times, and the interest of the Central Government to develop that place as a strategic location of India in its west coast, being moved by the post of the young superstar, I had decided to read and understand the fact from the very source before it getting too much soiled in the dirt created by social media.
Out of curiosity, I went through the official website of the Lakshadweep Administration and read out all the notices, circulars, orders etc in detailed manner but could not find any proper reason for the concerns raised by Mr. #Prithviraj and Mr. #Kareem. I eagerly looked for the notification released by the Administrator on the blanket ban of “beef” and also tried to trace out the circular to “disconnect the island from Kerala”, but miserably failed in both my attempts. I read the documents again as #PrithivirajSukumaran may not be wrong in his post! Finally I traced out a circular issued by Lakshadweep Administration on “The Lakshadweep Town and Country Planning Regulation, 2021”, and "The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulations , 2021 inviting the public comments seems to be the epicentre of the present havoc.
The entire cacophony seems to be erupted out of a circular issued by Lakshadweep Administration on The Lakshadweep Town and Country Planning Regulation, 2021 which is only an invitation to the public to make their comments within specific timelines. The draft of The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulations , 2021 was publised in February 2021 and the same had not created any issue till the draft of The Lakshadweep Town and Country Planning Regulation, 2021 had got published. As per the legal system followed in India, the comments and grievances, if any, of the public on the said regulations shall be collected, collated, compiled and addressed then the said suggestions shall be incorporated to the possible extent into the draft legislation, before getting the assent of the President of India. So there is a long way to go and nothing much to worry at this point of time. The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulations , 2021 is intended to provide for the preservation of animals suitable for milch, breeding or for agricultural purposes and same is not to put a blanket ban on all beef products. If the people of the island are against the regulated restrictions on slaughtering of cows, bullocks and calfs (no blanket ban on slaughtering of other animals such as buffalo, goat, sheep etc ), they can very well raise the voice and concerns against it and prevent the Government from getting it implemented. But, my monkey mind had asked me to read the entire regulations before making a comment on it, so I followed it.
Following are the main objectives of the said regulation, as per the draft published in the official site of the Government.
to make provision for the orderly and progressive development of land in both urban and rural areas and to preserve and improve the amenities thereof;
for the grant of permission to develop land and for other powers of control over the use of land;
to confer additional powers in respect of the acquisition and development of land for planning;
to provide for the Development of the towns and the country side of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep on sound planning principles securing good Governance, tourism promotion, proper sanitary conditions, to conserve and promote public health, safety and general welfare of the people living therein In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 240 of the Constitution
After reading the above, I could not find any ill motives in the said clauses as it plainly vouches for progress and development of the land, health and sanitation facilities etc and I miserably failed to find a minority oppression it that. It may be my fault to miss that, so I continued with my reading to dig out some faults in the legislation.
The regulation is basically about the development of the areas of island by constituting a Planning and Development Authority, who shall be responsible for (a) to prepare an Existing Land Use Map; (b) to prepare an Outline Development Plan; (c) to prepare a Comprehensive Development Plan; (d) to prepare and prescribe uses of land within its area; and (e) to prepare schemes of development and undertake their implementation, (f) to carry out surveys in the planning area for the preparation of Outline Development Plan, Comprehensive Development Plan or Town Planning Schemes; (g) to control the development activities in accordance with the development plan in the planning area; (h) to enter into contracts, agreements or arrangements with any person or organization as the planning development authority may deem necessary for performing its functions; (i) to acquire, hold, manage and dispose of property, movable or immovable, as it may deem necessary; (j) to execute works in connection with supply of water, disposal of sewerage and provision of other services and amenities; (k) to exercise such other powers and perform such other functions as are supplemental, incidental or consequential to any of the foregoing powers and functions or as may be directed by the Government;
One of the major allegation behind the huge hue and cry is that, the Government is going to relocate the poor people of the island to other places without their consent. Fortunately “re-location of population” is defined in the Regulation itself. The said regulation envisions to re-location of the people from bad- layout area or slum area to a properly planned area. The said draft report is a 183 page document which details the provisions relating to the planning and development of the island areas.
So, naturally, the said Planning and Development Authority will establish control over the landmass of the islands and its borders and , I assume, that the same may be the real reason behind the present turmoil. Many of the illegal land owners, including the Keralites who are owing the resorts in many islands may get evicted!. Is that not the real reason behind the drama?Being an Union Territory, Central Government is empowered to make laws in that region. Questioning that power in an arbitrary manner is part of Federalism? When the Central Government is taking more interest in the development of a place, who will be the affected party? Whose interest is getting adversely affected? Who will be the beneficiaries of the development of the place? When the island is being developed as a Tourist destination, who is getting directly benefited out of it? When a Gunda Act is introduced in a place, who else other than real Gundas are to be concerned about that? How an effort to establish law and order will be against the ordinary people of that island? In any case, how the religious sentiments are getting affected? Is our nation's security and national interest is of prime importance that anything else, especially when our naughty neighbour China is building its strength in that region? Are our celebrities and common man becoming the tools in the hands of the land grabbers and goons?
Those who are getting adversely affected by the development plans of the Government had pulled out the most powerful trump card to trash it- The #Religion! And they are getting successful when the, mindless but heart-melted, social media pages started trembling with #SaveLakshadweep hashtags.
We can clearly understand the motives of the politicians but an educated and sensible person like #Prithviraj should have enquired more about the same before making a huge issue out of this! It is good to remember the classic folktale “ the tail of the curious monkey” before making such comments in an ill-studied manner.
Bijoy P Pulipra