Administrator never tried to understand islanders’ culture: Lakshadweep MP

Administrator Praful Patel has been to Lakshadweep for just 15-20 days in the past five months, and cared little to understand the islanders’ culture and ecology, its MP Mohammed Faizal said.

Faizal asserted that a legal recourse would be sought if the Centre went ahead with the controversial laws for the archipelago.

The NCP leader, who has been demanding recall of Patel as administrator, said the draft laws were being opposed by every section of the Lakshadweep society, even the local BJP leaders. He alleged that the draft legislations were in blatant violation of the Supreme Court guidelines for carrying out developmental work on the ecologically-sensitive islands.

Patel was given the charge of the Lakshadweep administrator following the death of Dineshwar Sharma in December last year.

Faizal said Patel was trying to have a “one-man show” on the islands without consulting the locals or even their representatives.

“He (Patel) is completing five months after assuming charge. In these five months, his presence on the islands must have been for 15-20 days. He has never been to the island to the understand its people concern, their heritage and culture,” Faizal told PTI in a telephonic interview.

The Lok Sabha MP said Patel had been pushing for laws that have riled the islanders, majority of whom are Muslims. The legislations include ban on cow slaughter, two-child norm for those wanting to contest the panchayat elections and allowing liquor to be served at resorts on inhabited islands.

The Population Foundation of India said the proposed two-child norm was “suicidal” and defied all logic. The NGO pointed out that according to the National Health and Family Survey of 2019-2020, Lakshadweep had a total fertility rate of 1.4, which is far less than the national average of 2.2 and a cause for concern.

People also have apprehensions about the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) and the draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (LPASAR), Faizal said.

The LDAR is aimed to oversee development of towns on the islands with sweeping changes in the way land can be acquired and utilised.

The LPASAR provides for powers to detain a person for up to a year to prevent him from “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. A group of locals have already challenged the draft laws in court.

“If the Centre goes in the support of Praful Patel, the next option for us is to approach the courts for interference,” Faizal said. “We will continue to oppose this politically with the Centre to hear our voice and consider our genuine demands.”

Administrators play a crucial role in a place like Lakshadweep. If any officer commits a mistake, people rush to the administrator to find “final solace”, according to Faizal.

“But all these atrocities are happening from that chair,” he said, adding that it was causing paining to the people.

“They never had such an administrator in their life. And the Centre is getting blamed. Centre should take an immediate call on this,” Faizal said.

The administrator’s move has been met with criticism by several opposition parties. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan moved a resolution in the Assembly on Monday, expressing solidarity with the people of Lakshadweep.

Faizal said NCP president Sharad Pawar also sought a meeting with the prime minister and the Union home minister to discuss the issue.

“We’re waiting for that and we are hopeful that something will come out and if it is not happening in that way, then the next option is approaching the court,” he said.

Faizal added that Patel had done little to address the concerns of the people over the new laws.

The administration has tried to justify that the LDAR would help in the development of the islands.

“In the last 14-15 years, educated local people have given their proposal for developing tourism. Nothing has been done on that. Their demands have not been acceded to. We are not against the development of tourism. I am very much for that,” he said.

Faizal underscored the need for due consultative process in Lakshadweep as it also has a district panchayat that plays a crucial role in decision-making.

“There are 10 islands and people are elected to the district panchayat. It would have been an apt situation if this was placed before the district panchayat, where I am also a member. A detailed discussion would have happened, things could have been done in a better way,” he said.

The parliamentarian said it was difficult to fathom why was the Centre not recalling Patel as “his actions are giving it a bad name”.

He pointed out that the name of Patel, who is also the administrator of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, cropped up in the suicide of the Union territory’s MP Mohan Delkar earlier this year.

The Mumbai Police has registered a case against eight people, including Patel, for abatement to suicide after Delkar killed himself at a city hotel.

“I don’t know why the Centre is supporting such a person who is maligning its image. Why are they getting defamed?” Faizal asked.

“The Dadra and Nagar Haveli issue happened. People of Dadra and Nagar Haveli asked for a change because they lost their leader. There is a case against him. It does not look nice for an administrator,” he said.

“The Centre should take these things very seriously. This is no prestige matter,” Faizal said, adding that the government should listen to the people’s outcry.

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