Issues with recent draft rules notified by the Lakshadweep administration

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Synopsis: The recent changes brought in Lakshadweep Administration in the name of public purpose is against the public interest and ethos of the island.

Background:
  • Recently, the administrator of Lakshadweep brought changes to the following acts to promote infrastructural development to boost tourism.
    • Development Authority Regulation,
    • Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation,
    • Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation and
    • Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation
  • However, the proposed changes ignore the significance of cultural ecology, cultural geography and strategic location of Lakshadweep.
  • These changes are also against the 2019 Kerala HC judgement which had recognised the special status given to the inhabitants for protecting their ethnic culture and traditions.
  • Now, the draft rules are challenged before the High Court of Kerala.
What is unique about Lakshadweep?
  • It is an egalitarian coconut tree owning society.
  • It has little economic inequality along with high literacy and high unemployment.
  • The Muslim community is designated as Scheduled Tribes.
  • Coconut trees are the main agricultural crop and fisheries is the main economic activity.
  • Fisheries employ the majority of the working population.
  • Since solar electricity requires a large land area, electricity is generated through diesel generators.
What are the two competing visions for the island’s future?
  • NITI Aayog’s vision 2019: It identified water villas and land-based tourism projects as the development issue faced by the islands.
    • It also suggested zoning-based land acquisition and focused on sustainable development.
    • However, it ignores the fragile environment and culture.
  • Integrated Island Management Plan 2016: It was prepared under the guidance of the Supreme Court and the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management.
    • It had rejected ‘home stays’ in view of the strict social customs and strong resistance of the vast majority.
    • It also suggested that development programmes should be implemented in consultation with the elected local self-government bodies
    • It also recommended adherence to scientifically determined plans.
Major concerns associated with the new changes in Lakshadweep administration
  • Firstly, these changes are arbitrary, authoritarian and will destroy the way of life.
  • Secondly, vague criteria of ‘public purpose’ for acquiring private land will increase conflict.
    • Dev Sharan vs State of Uttar Pradesh, 2011: SC observed that “Any attempt by the State to acquire land by promoting a public purpose to benefit a particular group of people or to serve any particular interest at the cost of the interest of a large section of people especially of the common people defeats the very concept of public purpose.
  • Thirdly, Since, the existing water balance is under stress, it is difficult to adopt tourism.
    • All the inhabited islands already have a scarcity of drinking water supply. Hence, the conventional method of sewage treatment is not feasible because of the coral sandy strata and high-water table.
  • Fourthly, arbitrary changes will affect the relationship between the state and society, resulting in trust deficit and misgovernance.
    • For instance, the powers of the panchayats have been withdrawn on grounds of corruption, two-child policy for election candidates, banning beef and allowing liquor only for tourists.
    • Also, the new draft legislation has brought preventive detention for ‘anti-social activities’ whereas the island has no case of murder or smuggling by local people.
  • The Lakshadweep Administration has said the changes are in line with Maldives development road. However, it has adopted a very different strategy without the active participation of the public.

How the Maldives development strategy is different from the Lakshadweep administration?

  • Firstly, tourism in the Maldives is centred on water villas in uninhabited islands, ensuring that very few coconut trees are cut.
  • Secondly, only limited homestays are allowed.
  • Thirdly, Maldives has a ‘one island, one resort’ policy which has kept very little pressure on reefs low.
  • Fourthly, since the rich and healthy reefs are essential for economic returns, its business model is about giving coral reefs economic significance.

Source: The Hindu

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