- Over the last few weeks, the Lakshadweep administration has faced serious backlash and protests from locals against the proposed Lakshadweep Draft Regulations.
- These Regulations have been proposed by Lakshadweep’s Union Territory Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel.
- Residents and inhabitants of the island view it as an attempt to tarnish the social and cultural fabric of Lakshadweep.
- Protests and social media attention on these controversial Orders increased to the extent that hashtags like ‘#Save Lakshadweep’ and ‘#Resign Praful Khoda Patel’ began trending.
- This move by the Lakshadweep administration has incited a lot of reactions from various sections of the public.
Lakshadweep is a group of islands in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Kerala. It is filled with pristine natural beauty and has a unique culture which makes it a popular tourist attraction for many. It is the smallest Union Territory of India. It is a cluster of 36 islands, however, only 10 of them are inhabited. It has a population of about roughly 65,000. Recently, this holiday destination has come under a lot of media attention, following a series of administrative orders passed by the UT Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel. Allegations made by the discontented public are mainly about forceful imposition of Draft Regulations that are not in consonance with their culture and unfair to the general public. Apart from the public, many political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Lakshadweep MP Mohd. Faizal and Kerala CM Pinarayi Vikayan have openly condemned the Draft Regulations. Hashtags demanding resignation of Praful Khoda Patel took the popular social media platform, Twitter, by storm. Praful Khoda Patel was the Union Territory Administrator of Daman and Diu as well as of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. He was assigned charge of Lakshadweep in December 2020. The 4 Draft Regulations proposed are the Lakshadweep Animal Protection Regulation, 2021; the Anti-Social Activities Regulation Bill also known as the Goonda Act; the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021; and the Draft Panchayat Regulation 2021. These Regulations were proposed with an aim to bring Lakshadweep at par with the Maldives in terms of tourism.
LAKSHADWEEP ANIMAL PROTECTION REGULATION, 2021
This Regulation brings about provisions to ban cow slaughter, along with slaughter of calf and bulls. However, the main area of contention is the fact that this is proposed to be done without obtaining a certificate from a competent authority. Added to this, this Regulation also puts a ban on the storage, sale and transport of beef and beef products. A violation in this respect would invite a fine up to Rupees 10,000 and even imprisonment for 1 year. The localities of Lakshadweep (which has a Muslim majority populace) see this as an infringement on the right to practice their culture. They view this as the administration’s effort to impose their Right-Wing agenda.
DRAFT PANCHAYAT REGULATION, 2021
Under the Draft Panchayat Regulation, 2021, people having more than 2 children are not allowed to become a member of the Gram Panchayat. However, people with more than 2 children are not disqualified from participating, provided they do not have more children from the date of this Regulation coming into effect. This move has been widely questioned and criticised.
LAKSHADWEEP DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY REGULATION, 2021
This involves the development of towns and other island projects in the region. It brings about changes in the way land is to be acquired and utilised. Planning and Development Authorities are to be constituted which will look over the demarcation of planning and construction zones. The public is apprehensive of the damage that will be caused to the ecology and their livelihood with large scale construction projects developing in the area.
PREVENTION OF ANTI-SOCIAL ACTIVITIES REGULATION, 2021
While the islands have very low rates of crime, there have been instances of contrabanned substances and prohibited and illegal items being found. In order to prevent the youth from being misguided, this regulation was sought to be introduced. Under this, to prevent any person from acting in a manner that would disrupt public order, detention of that person could be done for 6 months up to 1 year, without any legal representation. This move by the administration has been seen as an effort to cull out voices of dissent.
Previously, Lakshadweep had zero cases of COVID due to stringent protocols for maintaining lockdown. However, later they were de-escalated and anyone with a negative RT-PCR test could travel. This led to a rise in infections and the island lost its ‘green zone’ status. The locals have blamed the administration for the mismanagement of the pandemic’s second wave. There have been 7,300 reported cases and 28 deaths in total. It should also be noted that the administration has allowed the sale, service and consumption of liquor by holiday resorts to tourists only. Residents fear a rise in liquor consumption among the islanders. Moreover, the police have also removed fishermen’s sheds and local fishing ports saying that they were a violation of Coastal Zone Regulations.
BACKLASH AND REACTIONS
The most recent development on this issue is Rahul Gandhi writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the crisis in Lakshadweep and stop the implementation of the ‘draconian’ Regulations that are regressive in nature and are opposed to the notion of dissent in democracy. NCP President Sharad Pawar also wrote to the Prime Minister criticising the said Regulations as they would harm and destroy the socio-cultural fabric of Lakshadweep. Demands to revise the ‘unwarranted and irrational’ proposals were also made. Many seeked the resignation of the Administrator Praful Khoda Patel and the appointment of a new Administrator who was more reflective of the true aspirations and needs of the people of Lakshadweep.
Regulations were notified on April 2, 2021 and a time period of 21 days was given. The Lakshadweep Town and Country Planning to invite objections and suggestions. Such objections and suggestions could be sent through post or email. These were to be forwarded to the Central Government. However, objections were made that only 21 days were given for filing objections. In response to this, Justice A Muhamed Mustaque directed that if objections were sent to the Administrator within 2 weeks from May 31, 2021, the same would still be sent to the Central Government. The Kerala High Court has allowed petitioners to submit their viewpoints even after the deadline. However, it was left to the discretion of the Central Government to accept them or not. The Lakshadweep Administration has received 593 comments and suggestions in total.
Of late, the Kerala Government has passed a unanimous resolution demanding Patel’s resignation. 15 protesters have been arrested and have begun a hunger strike. In the meanwhile, the Draft Regulations have already been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for approval and implementation by Administrator Praful Khoda Patel . As is evident, the fate of these Draft Regulations is heavily dependent on the approval of higher authorities. Much remains unclear as to whether these Regulations will be actually implemented or not.