Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close confidante and former Gujarat MoS Home Minister Praful Patel was appointed as the administrator of Lakshadweep on December 5, 2020 following the death of erstwhile administrator Dineshwar Sharma. Since then, a series of policies have been introduced which threaten the traditional life and diversity of the people of the island, causing many grievances. Immediately after assuming responsibility, he relaxed the quarantine policies, and this unplanned, unscientific change in SOP resulted in a surge in Covid-19 cases which was 0 in 2020. Now Lakshadweep has reported over 6000 cases and 24 deaths.
The promulgation issued shows a disregard for the people, their choice of food and livelihood. Non-vegetarian food has been removed from the school food menu and a regulation criminalizing slaughter of cattle, transportation and trade of beef products has been introduced. Even slaughter of other animals will require prior permission. This is an attack on the people who depend on dairy and the growing of bovine as a means of livelihood. Neither the island community nor the local bodies on the island ever raised such a demand and they were never consulted during such regulations being framed. This also indicates misplaced priorities because preservation of marine biology is not even mentioned in the draft. It is important to note that 93% of the indigenous population is constituted by the Muslim community and therefore this is a direct onslaught on them.
The island which has the lowest crime in the country will soon see enactment of the Goonda act which is a ploy that will allow them to persecute anyone who protests against union government policies. Anti-CAA protesters were arrested earlier, after Praful Patel took charge. The Goonda act will further equip them to suppress resistance. A draft law to disqualify panchayat members with more than two kids has also been initiated. The administration has demolished the sheds used by fishermen for storing nets and other equipment on the grounds that they violated Coast Guards acts without prior notice. In a place where people primarily rely on fishing, this is a blatant display of antagonism. Around 300 contract and casual workers employed by government offices have been dismissed which is relied on by a good section of the population for livelihood due to lack of opportunities in the private sector. Mid-day meal cooks, physical education teachers etc. have been terminated along with the shutting down of 38 anganwadis. Additionally, they have lifted the restrictions on the sale of alcohol.
Under the guise of development, the has promoted large scale private tourism ventures and has proposed widening of road in a manner that will require demolishing of many houses and buildings. This is unnecessary as the number of vehicles on the island is low, and traffic is almost nil. The development projects proposed do not match the topography of the island and are against the mandate of the people. The Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) gives the administrator powers to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any developmental activity; the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA), introduced in January 2021, under which a person can be detained without any public disclosure for a period of up to one year all raises widespread alarm. An attempt is also being made to sever the ties between the union territory and the state of Kerala by stopping freight transit through Beypore port in Kerala.
The Central Executive Committee of Students' Federation of India recognises the orders by the BJP administrator Praful Patel as authoritarian and anti-people. These steps must be viewed as attempts by a fascist regime to bring extreme control over the union territory with no respect for democratic desires of the people which is highly condemnable. We therefore urge everyone to stand with Lakshadweep and amplify their demands to put an end to Praful Patel’s tyranny!
VP Sanu (President)
Mayukh Biswas (General Secretary)