Sunday, April 14, 2024

Former administrators of Lakshadweep Habibullah and Saigal slam draconian regulations in island

Omesh Saigal (left) and Wajahat Habibullah (right)

Former administrators of Lakshadweep, Omesh Saigal and Wajahat Habibullah have sought interventions of country’s top officials including Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Home Minister Amit Shah in halting implementation of the draconian proposals initiated in Lakshadweep.

Lakshadweep newly-appointed administrator Praful K Patel’s recent decisions and draconian regulations have caused discontent in the Muslim-majority islands.

He has been accused of implementing Goonda Act in a place where least number of violent crimes reported in the country, banning beef products in a place the meat is widely consumed, demolishing fishermen’s sheds in coastal areas for violating the Coast Guard Act and revoking restrictions on the consumption of alcohol.

“Halt the new regulations”

In a letter to Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, Habibullah urged the constitutional offices to seek a review of the proposals and consultation with local bodies.

“The changes being proposed are stated to be for the ‘welfare of the human community’, which means a thorough consultative process by the said ‘human community’. Programmes being planned need a vision that takes into consideration a consultative approach rather than be imposed from the top,” read the letter Habibullah wrote with former NCW chairperson Mohini Giri and former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.

Pointing out that the social fabric in Lakshadweep is “built on an ecosystem based economy linked to fishing and anchored in the cooperation, tolerance, acceptance and mutual dependence which exists there,” Habibullah said in the letter to Naidu: “…We look up to you to set things right in the coral islands where each citizen has equal rights to options of livelihood.”

The letter also pointed out that the recent policy changes, “proposed unilaterally and arbitrarily”, have given no consideration to matters such as land use, land ownership, ocean resource utilisation and livelihood practices of the community.

Habibullah was an Administrator of Union Territory of Lakshadweep between 1987 September to 1990 January.

The former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and first Chief Information Commissioner of India, was an officer of the Indian Administrative Service from 1968 until his retirement in August 2005.

“fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

In a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday, former Lakshadweep Administrator Omesh Saigal said that the reports appearing in the press and also inputs he has received from some very eminent residents of Lakshadweep, are very disturbing and can have some very far reaching and adverse implications.

“Within five months of joining, the new Administrator has taken a number of drastic but negative steps which have disturbed the normally placid waters of the territory. This reminds one of the oft quoted ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’ He has closed anganwadis, sacked dozens of employees who worked for many years, banned meat from schools, demolished dozens of sheds of fishermen which were built as per integrated scientific plan prepared by a Supreme Court appointed committee, brought in a goonda act in a territory which has strong family bonds and has had no crime for at least one century, closed dairy farms, amended panchayati rules as per his whims, and tinkered with PWO contracts. And most disturbing of all are the provisions of the draft Lakshadweep Development Regulations 2021,” read his letter.

Saigal was the Administrator of Lakshadweep between July 1982 to July 1985.

He went on to say: “If someone can do this in a matter of months, either he is a genius or has a pre set agenda. Some of the provisions of the draft act are laughable and show that it is not tailor made for the island territory but picked up from a city like Delhi. It talks of ‘orderly and progressive development of urban and rural areas (the largest island has a population of 12000), ‘additional powers for acquisition of land’ (almost all the 10 Islands are actually abadi areas where land cannot be acquired), ‘development of the towns and country side’ ( such words could only be used by a person who has never been to the islands) and so forth.”

“They should not be allowed to remain even for a moment even at the draft stage; home ministry should immediately make an announcement that these draft regulations are withdrawn and government will not frame any regulations or rules without extensive consultation with the people,” Saigal urged Amit Shah.

While criticising the Lakshadweep administration’s claim of laying the foundation for the future of islands in a planned way and to develop it on the lines of Maldives in two decades, Saigal wrote: “The comparison with Maldives is superficial. Maldives as a separate country has no choice. But the economy of Lakshadweep is intimately linked to the mainland. For Instance hundreds of islanders from Minicoy, Agatti etc are sailors and they get employed from Calcutta. Students go for engineering, medical and other higher studies to the mainland; so are serous patients shifted to mainland hospitals. These ties need to be strengthen and not weakened.”

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