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.