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Why Lakshadweep’s New ‘Reforms’ May Enable Autocracy

Why Lakshadweep’s New ‘Reforms’ May Enable ‘Autocratic’ Rule

An insidious attempt to invest autocratic powers in the UT’s administration has begun to take root: Shashi Tharoor

Published: 

OPINION

4 min read
Image of Dr Shashi Tharoor (R) and Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Patel (L), against a background of an island in the Lakshadweep used for representation.
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On a February evening in New Delhi, Hamdullah Sayeed, a former parliamentary colleague and the current chief of the Lakshadweep Pradesh Congress Committee, called on me with a disturbing petition. Widespread distress was mounting in the idyllic and peaceful islands of Lakshadweep. An insidious attempt to invest autocratic powers in the Union Territory’s administration had begun to take root.

The growing fears of the islanders have come to a head this week, with thousands of residents — joined by their concerned fellow-citizens from the mainland, including Opposition politicians and celebrities — protesting the gross overreach of the union government through their appointee, Praful Khoda Patel, as Administrator of Lakshadweep since December 2020.

Praful Patel as an ‘Autocratic Ruler’ — and the Resentment of the Islanders

The resentment on the island is primarily directed at the new Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR), which will vest in the Administrator of the islands sweeping powers over land appropriation under the guise of ‘development’. These include, among others, the power to remove or relocate residents of the islands if they come in the way of any planned development projects, and to unilaterally take over their land for projects for which no legal challenges will be permitted following its approval by the administration. Violations to decrees stipulated within the regulation could leave residents facing either life imprisonment or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs, a brazen effort to discourage even the mildest of protests.

Environmentalists and local residents have also decried the definition of ‘development’ used in the draft, particularly the list of activities such as mining and creation of highways, that are being proposed for the ecologically fragile island.

While the regulation would effectively convert Mr Patel’s role to an autocratic ruler who can dictate and manipulate the lives of the islanders with no checks and balances, the LDAR, is only a recent addition to a growing list of questionable actions that ultimately seeks to centralise control on the island. His controversial tenure began with his own unorthodox appointment: the office of the Administrator has been traditionally held by a civil servant, whereas Patel is a former BJP functionary who served as Home Minister during PM Narendra Modi’s tenure as CM of Gujarat.

Soon, his unilateral decree changing quarantine norms resulted in a rampant rise in coronavirus cases (from 0 in 2020, to 6,611 and 24 deaths as of last Sunday) that submerged the meagre healthcare resources of an island territory that has a population of 70,000.

Praful Patel’s Questionable Actions Which Invited Flak

The Administrator’s other actions have invited universal condemnation. He has capped his trouble-making with a Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, to “stop the sale, consumption, storage and transport of beef,” with penalties commencing with a minimum jail period of seven years, in a territory that is 99 percent Muslim! He further seeks to disallow any candidate to contest panchayat elections if they have two or more children. He has endangered the livelihood of the fishing community by removing their temporary huts, sheds, boats, net-drying facilities and storage spaces—citing violation of coastal zone rules. And his Goonda Act (‘Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities’ Regulation) outlaws democratic dissent, curbs freedom of expression and allows the state to unilaterally detain a person without offering a public reason for up to a year in the name of law and order — in a territory that regularly registers the lowest crime rates in the country.

Put together, one could be forgiven for reading these laws as legislation for a war-torn region facing significant civilian strife, rather than laws meant for an idyllic archipelago filled with abundant natural beauty and peace-loving fellow citizens of India.

An Ongoing Siege on Our Democratic Foundations

To be fair, this is merely yet another reminder of the perverse and autocratic mindset of those in power in our country. The manner in which these far-reaching changes have been imposed under the cover of the pandemic, with few institutional checks and riding roughshod over federalism, is theatre we have seen before. As I said on Twitter: “You’d think the BJP would finish destroying what they won electorally first, before moving on to destroy places they have no presence in. But it seems their motto is, if it ain’t broke, break it.”

A peaceful, calm territory is being torn asunder for petty political ends.

The victims of the ruling dispensation’s rampant centralisation of power and autocratic tendencies are the people of India, who have suffered untold horrors as a result of the misgovernance that has arisen from the ongoing siege on our democratic foundations. As the movie star Prithviraj Sukumaran rightly pointed out in a widely shared post, “… any law, reform, or amendment should never be for the land, but for the people of the land. It is never the geographical or political boundary that makes a country, state, or a union territory but the people who live there.”

The people of Lakshadweep have spoken clearly and in one voice. It is time for the government to wake up or for the courts to intervene. We risk destroying a peaceful part of the country where peace and communal harmony reigned undisturbed. It is time to stop the rot.

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(Dr Shashi Tharoor is a third-term MP for Thiruvananthapuram and award-winning author of 22 books, most recently ‘The Battle of Belonging’(Aleph). He tweets @ShashiTharoor. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own.

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Why Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel is target of public outcry

Mismanaging COVID, anti-culture reforms: Why Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel is target of public outcry

 
Times Now Digital

Updated May 26, 2021 | 11:52 IST

Patel has drafted a series of reforms that have caused widespread resentment among the islands’ constituents.

 
The idyllic islands of Lakshadweep.

The idyllic islands of Lakshadweep.  |  Photo Credit: Twitter

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • At the heart of this resentment is the new Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) which, observers note, grants the administrator sweeping powers relating to land appropriation
  • Then there is the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 – which will, reportedly, outrightly ban the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks – a violation of which could attract a penalty of seven years in prison
  • The Goonda Act (Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation), observers note, may also allow authorities to unilaterally detain protestors without offering a reason for up to a year, while also curbing freedom of expression

The idyllic islands that make up Lakshadweep, home to roughly 70,000 residents who take deep pride in maintaining their culture, have threatened to become a theatre of conflict borne out of a sweeping set of reforms, allegedly enforced unilaterally, by its administrator, Praful Khoda Patel.

Patel, a former MLA from Gujarat who also served as Home Minister in the northern state during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as its chief minister, took charge as administrator of Lakshadweep in December 2020, following the passing of his predecessor Dineshwar Sharma.

Since then, Patel has drafted a series of reforms that have caused widespread resentment among the islands’ constituents who claim they jeopardise the ecologically fragile constitution of the territory while destroying the unique cultural fabric that Lakshadweep has come to be known for.

Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021

At the heart of this resentment is the new Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) which, observers note, grants the administrator sweeping powers relating to land appropriation under a contentious definition of ‘development.’ 

Once in effect, it would permit 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 the other powers of control over the use of land; to confer additional powers in respect of the acquisition and development of land for planning.” 

Critics of the draft legislation have claimed that it would allow for unrestricted building, mining and quarrying on sensitive island territory. The law also vests into the administrator, the authority to earmark special zones for residential, industrial and commercial use – a move that residents fear will lead to forced eviction or ceding possession of land to the Planning and Developing Authority without any room for legal recourse. 

Patel has allegedly already issued orders to raze houses to supposedly, widen roads – something that has puzzled residents of a community that boasts hardly any vehicles, most of which are two-wheelers. 

RELATED NEWS
 

 

Other controversial reforms

Then there is the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 – which will, reportedly, outrightly ban the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks – a violation of which could attract a penalty of seven years in prison. It is worth noting that over 99 per cent of Lakshadweep’s population is Muslim. 

Patel’s proposition to ban non-veg in schoolchildren’s midday meals has also been repudiated by the island’s residents, many of whom claim that the lack of fresh vegetable supplies from the mainland necessitates the consumption of non-vegetarian food. His relaxation of alcohol licensing, supposedly to spur tourism, has also drawn the ire of local communities. 

Another one of Patel’s troublesome proposals involves banning candidates with two or more children to participate in panchayat elections. Many have claimed that the law amounts to gross political overreach with the administrator blatantly seeking to weaken prominent members of the opposition. 

The Goonda Act (Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation), observers note, may also allow authorities to unilaterally detain protestors without offering a reason for up to a year, while also curbing freedom of expression. Lakshadweep, it is worth noting, has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Patel, it is alleged, has also already destroyed temporary sheds and net-drying facilities of the local fishing community citing violations of the Coast Guard Act. 

These moves, his critics have pointed out, have all arrived following a change in COVID-19 management protocols on the island that has backfired hugely. Lakshadweep, until January 2020, had been one of the few safe havens in the country, having failed to register even a single COVID-19 case. 

A 14-day quarantine period, seven days of which were to be spent in Kochi, was believed to be key to Lakshadweep’s success. However, a change in SOP, that waived the quarantine period and now only requires travellers to present a negative RT-PCR test, has seen cases in the island territory swell remarkably, with some noting that the positivity rate could now be beyond 60 per cent. 

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#SaveLakshadweep #BoycottAmul

ജനങ്ങളുടെ വരുമാനം മാർഗ്ഗം ഇല്ലാതാക്കിയും പാൽ ഉത്പാദനം നിർത്തലാക്കിയും ലക്ഷദ്വീപിൽ വിറ്റഴിക്കാൻ ഒരുങ്ങുന്ന അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാനാണ് ദ്വീപ് നിവാസികളുടെ തീരുമാനം. അവരോടൊപ്പം ഐക്യപ്പെട്ട് അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാൻ ഓരോ ആളുകളും തീരുമാനിച്ചാൽ അതൊരു സമരമാവും.
അമിത് ഷായുടെ മകൻ പുതിയ വലിയ റിസോർട്ടാണ് അവിടെ പണിയുന്നത് , ലക്ഷദീപ് മൊത്തം അവന്റെ ടൂറിസ്റ്റ് കേന്ദ്രമാക്കാനാ പുതിയ പരിപാടി.
നമ്മളെല്ലാം പൊട്ടൻമാർ , ഗുജറാത്തികൾ നല്ല ബിസ്സിനസ്സുകാരാണ്. ഇതിന് അവർക്ക് മത ഭ്രാന്തുണ്ടാക്കി ഭരണം പിടിച്ച് എല്ലാ പവറും അവൻമാരുടെ കൈയ്യിലായി, കോടികൾ ഇന്ത്യയെ വിറ്റും ഇന്ത്യയിൽ വിറ്റും ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്നു.
കൊടി പിടിച്ചു വോട്ടുചെയ്യുന്ന നമ്മൾ മണ്ടൻമാർ.
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SaveLakshadweep

Amul boycott – pallipurath@gmail.com – Gmail

ലക്ഷദ്വീപിൽ ഇന്ന് മുതൽ അമൂൽ ഉത്പനങ്ങൾ എത്തുകയാണ്. മൂന്ന് ദിവസം മുമ്പ് പുറപ്പെടവിച്ച സർക്കുലർ പ്രകാരം ലക്ഷദ്വീപിലെ എല്ലാ ഡയറി ഫാമുകളും അടക്കാനാണ് ഉത്തരവിട്ടിരിക്കുന്നത്. വെറ്റിനററി സർജന്റെ നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ മൃഗങ്ങളെ ലേലം ചെയ്യാനാണ് തീരുമാനം. 

ദ്വീപ് നിവാസികളുടെ പ്രധാന വരുമാന മാർഗങ്ങളിലൊന്നായ പാൽ ഉത്പാദനം പൂർണ്ണമായും ഇല്ലാതാക്കി ഗുജറാത്ത് കേന്ദ്രമായി പ്രവർത്തിക്കുന്ന അമൂലിന്റെ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ദ്വീപിൽ വിറ്റഴിക്കാനാണ് ശ്രമിക്കുന്നത്. 

ആർഎസ്എസ് ചാനലായ സുദർശൻ ന്യൂസ് വഴി സംപ്രേഷണം ചെയ്ത upsc ജിഹാദ് എന്ന മുസ്ലിം വിദ്വേഷ പരിപാടി സ്പോൺസർ ചെയ്ത കമ്പനി കൂടിയാണ് അമൂൽ.  ജനങ്ങളുടെ വരുമാനം മാർഗ്ഗം ഇല്ലാതാക്കിയും പാൽ ഉത്പാദനം നിർത്തലാക്കിയും ലക്ഷദ്വീപിൽ വിറ്റഴിക്കാൻ  ഒരുങ്ങുന്ന അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാനാണ് ദ്വീപ് നിവാസികളുടെ തീരുമാനം. അവരോടൊപ്പം ഐക്യപ്പെട്ട് അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാൻ ഓരോ ആളുകളും തീരുമാനിച്ചാൽ അതൊരു സമരമാവും. #SaveLakshadweep