Lakshadweep is the smallest Union territory of India situated 220-440 kms across the south western coast of the country. It is a group of 36 small islands where only 11 of them are inhabited by people.Kavaratti, the largest of the islands, is the capital of the union territory. Almost 99% of the population are muslims and fishing is their primary occupation.Major languages in the island are Malayalam,Jeseri and Mahl.The island is dependent on the state of Kerala for education,health, jobs and trade.Customarily Lakshadweep was governed by administrators ( IAS/IPS officers ) with the support and consultation with elected district panchayath.This was the case till december 2020.But the demise of the then administrator Dineshwar Sharma IPS changed the scenario altogether as the Centre appointed Praful Patel as the administrator of Lakshadweep. He is not an IAS/IPS officer but a BJP leader who was the Home minister of Gujarat when the current Prime minister was Gujarat’s Chief minister.
The series of “reforms” he brought about which are being opposed by the islanders are; The island has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.The jail in Lakshadweep remains closed throughout and there is a police station for name sake. But the new administrator has implemented the Goonda Act in the island. Meat was removed from the lunch menu of the schools and he has also called for banning of cattle slaughter and beef consumption. This is seen as a direct attack on the culture of the island.200 temporary appointed high school teachers were dismissed and the students who protested against this were suppressed. Several anganwadis were closed in the island.
The administrator reduced the powers of the elected district panchayat and brought education,health,agriculture,fishing,local governing and animal conservation under his direct control.Two dairy farms were closed stating that they were running at loss. And it is now reported that milk is being exported from Gujarat to the island.Trade with the mainland usually happens through Beypore Port in Kerala now it has been diverted to Mangalore port.Also bizarre rules like people with more than 2 children being exempted from contesting elections are also reported from the island.
The administrator defends himself saying that he is making these reforms to develop the island and to boost tourism here. Stating the same he has removed the sheds and other fishing equipment from the shore which was used by the fishing folks. The island was dry land but the administrator has approved the opening of beverages.
The greatest opposition was against changing the existing SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for COVID. The island was among the parts of the country in the green list during the first wave with zero cases reported.This was due to the strict quarantine measures implemented in the island.But the new administrator relaxed the rules to promote tourism which led to drastic increase in cases with the positivity rate going beyond 13%.
Huge protests against these policies are being held by islanders.But the islanders cannot involve themselves in direct protest due to covid restrictions,therefore the protest is held majorly online. The islanders have also started protesting at their footsteps.Also elected representatives and natives have contacted public figures and politicians to extend support to their cause and to bring their plight to mainstream media. The official Lakshadweep media handles were suspended and the twitter handles that posted against these reforms were taken down.Various requests have been made to the president to recall the administrator.
People have claimed that the BJP is trying to implement its facisit agenda in the island.But the BJP leaders have cleared this stating that these reforms are for the development of the island and to make it a tourism hub.”Unity in Diversity ” is our nation’s hallmark, therefore factors that disrupt this unity should not be encouraged even at the cost of development. Also freedom to choose the development that we want for our place should be accounted for. Development should never be at the cost of the lives and culture of the people of that place.