Lakshadweep: Tackle the brewing discontent
Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel has kicked up a political storm with a set of decisions that the government claims will trigger further development in the Union Territory, but critics slam as undermining the political, cultural and economic make-up of the islands.
For one, Mr Patel has curtailed the powers of the panchayats, bringing health, education, fisheries and animal husbandry under the administrator. This has reportedly led to many engaged in these sectors on a contract basis being laid off. Two, while the islands had been free of Covid-19 for almost a year, Mr Patel’s decision to lift the stipulation for mandatory quarantine for travellers from Kochi is attributed as a key reason for a surge in cases. The archipelago has now had over 7,000 cases. Three, the islands — which have an overwhelming Muslim majority — also face a draft regulation against cow slaughter, though beef forms part of the daily diet. Four, locals have opposed a draft regulation for the creation of a Lakshadweep Development Authority, fearing this would enable outsiders to purchase land. And five, Mr Patel has also, inexplicably, implemented the Goonda Act in Lakshadweep, which has a very low crime rate.
Besides Mr Patel’s actions being undemocratic and unpopular, any unrest in the islands have implica-tions for India’s maritime security and could open the door for external mischief. The Centre should instruct Mr Patel to step back, engage in consultations with communities, elected representatives and stakeholders, and respect local sensitivities, history and aspirations instead of imposing a top-down development and cultural model he may prefer.