MPs seek recall of Lakshadweep administrator over ‘anti-people’ reforms
Two members of Parliament on Monday wrote to the President against various measures taken by the acting administrator of Lakshadweep, Praful Khoda Patel, which they said, would “destroy unique culture and tradition of the Indian Ocean group of islands”.
Patel, the administrator of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu was given additional charge of Lakshadweep in December last year following the demise of Dineshwar Sharma, who was former Intelligence Bureau chief.
Lakshadweep MP, Nationalist Congress Party’s Mohammed Faizal and his colleague from neighbouring Kerala, Elamaram Kareem (Communist Party of India-Marxist) have urged the Centre to recall Patel, the administrator of India’s smallest union territory.
The MPs alleged that the former Gujarat minister unilaterally decided to introduce norms for mandatory acquiring of private property for development, anti-Goonda rules that gave police powers to detain anyone, remove beef from the mid-day meal, cut trees for road expansion projects and introduce two-child norm for contesting in local body elections without any consultation with people.
The Congress and CPI(M) joined hands to oppose his decisions, saying Patel was trying to “saffronise the island” where almost 95% population is Muslim.
Kareem on Monday sought immediate intervention of the President, saying Patel’s decision to remove quarantine centre in Kochi for persons coming to the island from abroad has resulted in surge on Covid cases. The MP said the island had contained infections effectively till last December, but now test positivity rate has gone above 40%. Earlier, infected people were quarantined in Kochi and were allowed to proceed to islands two weeks after testing negative, but this facility was scrapped after Patel took the charge.
Kareem, in his letter, said people were really worried because the island, home to 70,000, did not have super specialty hospitals or enough oxygen reserves. “This unplanned and unscientific altering of the SOPs led to surge in cases in the island where not even a single case was reported till December 2020,” Kareem said.
“We want the Union government to recall him. I have already spoken to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. He can’t bulldoze values and traditions of the island like this. If the government ignores our plea, we will be forced to start an agitation,” said NCP leader and Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal.
Faizal, who is a second-term MP from the island, said new rules like two-child norm for local body polls, removal of beef from the mid-day meal scheme and goonda act were an insult to local people. He added that according to the National Crime Records Bureau, the island has “lowest crime rate in the country and its small jails are almost empty”.
The MP said some of Patel’s decisions were against the recommendations of Justice Raveendran Commission appointed by the Supreme Court in 2012 to look into allegations of some private resorts allowed in violation of coastal zone regulations. “His moves to widen roads, and develop inner areas are against the integrated island management plan mooted by the commission. You can’t develop it as a major tourism hub by hurting sentiments of local people. All elected representatives are kept in the dark,” he said.
Stating that some of the administrator’s orders and promulgations were with ulterior motives to destroy traditional life and diversity of people, Kareem said, “These steps were taken without an iota of consideration towards people’s livelihood and food. Hundreds of casual and contract labourers were thrown out of their jobs after he assumed power.”
Congress leader V T Balram and many film celebrities like actor Prithviraj have also aired their protest. “These reforms are bizzare. When an entire community is unhappy with the decisions taken by a nominated authority, I hope people in power will hear their voice. I have faith in our system and even more faith in the people. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth with even more beautiful people living there,” Prithviraj said in his recent social media post.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also condemned the move to introduce certain reforms, which, he said, will affect the culture and tradition of the island. “Kerala has close relations with island for many years. Reports from the island are really disturbing. It seems there is a concerted move to dilute the tradition of Lakshadweep. We condemn such moves and we will always support residents’ endeavor to protect their customs,” he said in the state capital.
Parful Khoda Patel was the minister of state for home in Gujarat cabinet when Narendra Modi was the chief minister. In 2016, he was appointed as the administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and later also became the administrative head of Daman and Diu. He has had a running feud with district collector and IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, who later resigned from the civil service.
Patel was not available for his comments despite repeated requests.
Meanwhile, defending Patel, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed that the protests were a result of his efforts to end “corrupt practices” involving local politicians prevalent and usher in development there.
BJP national vice-president AP Abdullakutty, the party’s prabhari in Lakshadweep, alleged the opposition MPs were protesting as Patel took certain steps to end the “corrupt practices” of politicians in the islands.
Claiming that the local people were happy with the administration, he alleged that an atmosphere of tension has been created through the media and social media by certain fundamentalist groups operating from Kerala.
“Unfortunately, these MPs are playing to the tunes of such outfits without realising the truth,” Abdullakutty said.
(With PTI inputs)