Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Patel’s attempt to usher in ‘reforms’ in the island territory has united two poles of opposition including CPI(M) and Congress in protest. Patel is spearheading a proposal which includes a ban on beef, disqualification of panchayat poll candidates with more than two children, an anti-goonda Act and establishment of a development authority with powers to acquire land for development purposes among others.
Hitting out at Patel, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan yesterday said the Administrator’s actions posed a serious challenge to the culture and life of the people of Lakshadweep.
Several MPs from Kerala along with Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal of NCP have openly spoken out terming Patel’s functioning as autocratic style. They also wrote to the Centre and President seeking a review of the proposals and recall of Patel.
Patel, who took charge of Lakshadweep in December last year, has come out with draft versions of the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation and Amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules.
According to MP Faizal, the Administrator had not consulted any elected representatives before coming out with the draft regulations.
He claimed that the draft of the Lakshadweep Development Authority is aimed at usurping people’s land and this will give the Authority huge power to take over land without protecting the interests of landowners. He said the authority aims to develop roads as per National Highway standards which are not required in Lakshadweep. He claimed that the Administrator is promoting the interest of business-people in the mainland.
The ban on beef proposed under the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation has contributed to the unrest in the Union Territory where Muslims constitute over 90 per cent of the population, reported the Indian Express. MP Faizal also claimed that people were agitated over the dilution of norms for serving liquor at resorts. He urged President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to appoint a permanent administrator.
Congress’ Prathapan alleged that the Administrator was trying to demolish the unique culture of Lakshadweep. He alleged that Lakshadweep was free from COVID-19 till December 2020, but that the cases started going up this year due to the wrong policies adopted by the Administrator. According to officials, Lakshadweep has reported over 6,500 covid cases and 24 deaths so far. Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP K C Venugopal has urged President Ram Nath Kovind to immediately recall the administrator of Lakshadweep, alleging that the imposition of a series of measures has caused immense disturbance and disquiet in the islands.
On the other hand, Patel claimed that the islands have not witnessed development in 70 years and his administration was only trying to develop it. He said that the draft regulations meant for inviting people’s suggestions.
The BJP has defended Patel claiming that the protests were a result of his efforts to end the prevalent ‘corrupt practices’ involving local politicians and usher in development there.