Agatti Island, Lakshadweep. Ever since the bill was introduced in January, there have been protests on the island against the contentious provisions of the bill.
There are protests happening in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep over the last few days over a slew of administrative reforms announced by the island's administrator Praful Patel, which protesters describe as anti-people. The protests, under the 'Save Lakshadweep campaign', have intensified with more prominent personalities supporting the campaign. Here's a quick explainer to understand exactly what is the situation on the island.
What is the issue all about?
Laskhadweep's administrator Praful Patel, a former BJP leader who served as the home minister of Gujarat, announced a slew of new reforms which irked the locals and in the neighbouring state of Kerala. At the heart of the problem is the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR), which gives the administrator powers to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any developmental activity. Also, the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA), introduced in January 2021, gives the government power to detain a person without any public disclosure for a period of up to one year.
The draft bill gives sweeping, arbitrary, unchecked powers to the government (and all its bodies) to directly interfere with an islander’s right to possess and retain their property.
What are the other regulations that have caused protests?
Other new regulations include stopping schools from serving non-vegetarian food and destroying sheds of fishermen. There is fear that enforcing restrictions on slaughtering and transport of beef products is a backdoor beef ban.
What is the controversy on contesting panchayat polls?
The draft panchayat notification says a member with more than two children is disqualified from being a member. "No person shall be a member of a Gram Panchayat or continue as such who... has more than two children," the draft rule says. This has created panic among the residents about their ability to contest polls if they don't fit this criterion.
The bill is not the only reason. There are other norms that Patel has brought in including diluting the COVID protocols of Lakshadweep. Earlier, the standard operating procedure of the island required strict quarantine of fourteen days for entering the island. But Patel diluted the norms, saying an RT-PCR negative certificate is enough to enter Lakshadweep which has created concerns among the islanders.
Why are the protests getting nationwide attention now?
Ever since the bill was introduced in January, there have been protests on the island against the contentious provisions of the bill. But, the protests got wider attention after Kerala MP Elamaram Kareem, in his letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, alleged that many casual and contract labourers working under different departments have lost their jobs under changing rules on the island. "Further, the sheds where fishermen used to keep their nets and other equipment were demolished by the new administration on the grounds that they violated the Coast Guard Act. The temporary buildings, which were earlier constructed under an exemption given only to fishermen by the administration, are now being demolished without any warning," he charged. "The administration has also decided that islanders should no longer depend on Beypore (Kerala) for freight transit. Instead, they should depend on Mangalore (Karnataka) for this purpose," he said.
Who are the other famous personalities who have supported the Save Lakshadweep campaign?
Prominent personalities including actor Prithviraj and footballer CK Vineeth have come forward to express support to the campaign. In a Twitter statement, Prithviraj said: "For the last few days, I have been getting desperate messages from people I know and do not know from these islands, requesting and sometimes even pleading for me to do what I can to bring public attention to what is going on there. I'm not going to go on and write an essay about the islands and why the new administrator's 'reforms' seem completely bizarre," Prithviraj said.