Lakshadweep is the smallest Union Territory of India and covers an area of 32 sq. km. It has 36 islands out of which 10 are inhabited. The island is directly under the control of Central Government through an administrator. It has 3 main group of islands:
- Amindivi Islands (Northernmost Island)
- Laccadive Islands
- Minicoy Islands (Southernmost Island)
It has tiny islands of coral origin and are surrounded by fringing reefs (hence called as Atoll). The capital is Kavaratti, which is the principal town of the UT and the Pitti Island (uninhabited) has a Bird Sanctuary.
The island has a population of 64,429 (according to Census of India, 2011). More than 93% of the population is indigenous and are Muslims. Because of the populations economic and social backwardness, the entire population is classified as Scheduled Tribes and there are no Scheduled Castes in the UT. The main occupation of the people is fishing, coconut cultivation and coir twisting. And tourism is an emerging industry. Under Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of India, the entire island was declared as an Organic Agricultural Area.
WHAT IS LDAR 2021 ?
The latest Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021, for the creation of a Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA) which will be the administrative body for the island and will pan the development of the island.
- CONSTITUION OF LAKSHADWEEP DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY : The LDAR empowers the government to be identified as the administrator of the island and has the power to constitute Lakshadweep Development Authority. The authority will plan the development of any area in the island, which could be identified in a bad layout or in obsolete condition. This authority has power to prepare land use pans, zonation’s of land uses, indicate areas for different types of development etc. And only Cantonment areas are exempted from this.
- Definition of ‘Development’: Development is defined as the process of carrying out of building, engineering, mining, quarrying or other operations, in, on, over or under land, cutting of a hill or any portion thereof or the making of any material change in any building or land or in the use of any building or land.
- LEGAL PENANLTIES: As per the DDAR, the development plan will not be questioned by anyone, either before or after being approved. It empowers the administering body to forcibly relocate or remove residents or citizens from their own property for carrying out any developmental activity. It establishes penalties for those who will violate the laws. Such as imprisonment for obstructing the development plan’s work or workers.
- FEES FOR CHANGING ZONES: It stipulates that islanders and citizens must pay a processing fee for changing zones, which implies that localities will be paying fees to gain approval for altering or changing zones as per the development plan as well as for permission to develop their own land.
Following concerns were raised by the people of Lakshadweep:
- VIOLATION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS : The LDAR provides the Government and Development Authority constituted by Government, the supreme powers to acquire, alter and transfer the properties owned by the residents of the island which violates the fundamental rights of the residents of Lakshadweep as guaranteed in Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
- INTERESTS ON REAL ESTATE : Many residents have been suspecting and fearing that LDAR might seeking real estate interests to usurp the small landholdings and properties owned by the native islanders. There have been proposals of bringing “Transferable Development Rights” to the island which has raised another major concern and fear among islanders for being migrated forcefully.
- FORCIBLE RELOCATION AND EVICTION: The LDAR has given the power to relocate people for development plans has become one of the major concerns and issues. According to the regulations provided, the owner has to develop his holding as per the plan prepared by the authority or else they will be penalized in case of non-compliance with the regulation.
- ECOLOGICAL CONCERNS: Lakshadweep is a part of coral ecosystem and it has inherited this cultural and ecological uniqueness as well as fragility. This ecosystem can get destroyed easily if the development activities around them are not regulated. The regulations which provide the government supreme powers for acquiring and developing land can be disastrous for this ecosystem.
- THREATEN THE CULTURE AND LIFE: The island is very vulnerable to destruction and any further large-scale infrastructural development can have large ecological and social footprint which can negatively affect the potentiality and sustainability of the area as well as the life forms present in the island.
- IGNORES PEOPLE’S NEEDS AND GEOGRAPHICAL REALITIES: Lakshadweep has unique geography, ecology and culture and for protecting and preserving this uniqueness it is important to limit the development activities in the island. The LDAR tries to expand the road connectivity ignoring the geographic conditions of the island and the interests of the people. And the LDAR has also provided the regulation that no one can raise or question the strategies or actions provided by the development authority, before or after being approved. This shows that the needs, interests and concerns of the people are undermined.
- VIOLATES THE OBJECTIVES OF LAND ACQUISITION ACT, 2013: The Act promotes the consultation with institutions of self-government and Gram Sabha’s, local people and tries to have a transparent and informed process for land acquisition.