THE LAKSHWADEEP DEVELOPMENT PLAN AND ITS POTENTIAL EFFECTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Lakshadweep is the smallest union territory of India. Lakshadweep consists of 35 islands and its capital is “Kavaratti”. The current administrator of Lakshadweep island is Praful Khoda Patel, who assumed office on 5 December 2020. Before this, he was also the Home Minister of Gujrat under Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Praful Khoda Patel was also the Daman & Diu & the Dadar & Nagar haveli administrator. Previously the administrator post was held by IAS [Indian Administrative Services] officers. There is no Leftiuent Governor in this Union Territory, like the ones in Delhi, Puducherry, etc. The powers that the Leftiutent Governor holds are held by the administrator here.
What is Happening in Lakshadweep:
The citizens of Lakshadweep are protesting against the administrative reforms brought by Mr. Praful Patel. Mr. Praful Patel introduced “The Anti-social activities regulation bill, 2021” or “The Goonda Act” and “The Lakshadweep Animal Prevention regulation” and “The Lakshawdeep development authority regulation”. These bills and regulations were introduced in the mid-covid scenario.
The people are protesting against the decision to allow liquor sale on the island, the ban on beef, and the plan to disenfranchise islanders on certain counts. Mr. Praful’s tenure saw the descend from being a Covid-free region for nearly a year into starting with 6,800 cases until May 24. This all happened due to the provisions made by the administrator to remove the mandatory quarantine time period.
What are the Policies:
The draft includes a plan for “The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021”[LDAR], this is just a draft and it is not implemented till now, but it is anticipated that it will be implemented soon.
This regulation [LDAR] empowers the government, identified as the administrator, to constitute Planning and Development Authorities under it. Such authorities will serve the purpose to plan the development of any area identified as having a ‘bad layout or obsolete development” which means having an old or useless area. Only the cantonment areas which are of Army, Navy, And Air Force are exempted from this authority rest of the land will come under LDA Authority.
The body of the “Planning and Development Authority” will constitute a government-appointed chairman, a town planning officer, three experts from the government nominees, and two local authority representatives. Mostly it consists of the government authorities and the local authority has a very less percentage in this body.
The draft of “The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation” defines development as, carrying out of the building, engineering, mining, quarrying or other operations in, on, over or under land, the cutting of a hill or any portion thereof or the making of any material change in any building or land or in the use of any building or land.
These authorities are to prepare land use maps, carry out zonation for the type of land use and indicate areas for “proposed national highways, arterial roads, ring roads, major streets, railways, airports, theatres, stadiums, etc. According to this any house or property can be demolished or any hill can be cut down and mining activities can take place and all these will come under the title of Development.
The islanders are opposing this move because such new regulations come with great powers with the authority that it can prepare comprehensive development plans for any area and relocate people regardless of their will. And the authority which is constituted, there is a very less percentage of the local people to put their views. And the authorities have the power to pick up any land under the title of Development. It will be land needed for Public Purpose. And if the land is picked once, the land can be used as per the government sees fit, and it will be of no regard to the owner. Hence, the owner of the land has to relocate and find another place on the island. This is forcible eviction.
This puts the onus on the owner to develop his holding as per the plan prepared by the authority. And the regulations say there would be heavy penalties in the event of non-compliance.
The other regulation which was enacted was the “Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation” [PASA] which is also known as the “Goonda Act”. under this regulation A person can be detained without any public disclosure for a period of up to 1 year. The protestors say that Lakshadweep has one of the lowest crime rates in India, and such type of law or regulation is a move of racism towards the people of Lakshadweep. Protestors say that “Lakshadweep is a territory of India, not a colony!”
Another Law / Regulation was the “Lakshadweep Animals Preservation Regulation” which bans cattle slaughter and trade in Lakshadweep. With more than 90% of the Population of Lakshadweep being Muslim, hence the beef was consumed in a large quantity. The Islander says that this has scant regard for the islander’s choice of food and livelihood. The move to lift the restriction on the consumption and use of alcohol on the Island is also being opposed.
As per the draft, no person shall directly or indirectly sell, keep, store, transport, offer, and expose for sale or buy beef products or beef in any form anywhere from Lakshadweep.
The Environmental Concerns:
Lakshadweep MP says that the Draft LDA regulations are neither ecologically sustainable nor socially viable. The Development Projects are for-profit motive and concretization of the Island will hurt its pristine ecology.
The people’s representatives were not consulted before drafting it. And at the high time of this Covid-19 first wave in the region, there is no such reason to inadsfplement these regulations at the moment. In a biodiversity survey of 2017, one of the Parali islands has been eroded to an extent of 100%. And the other part of the island is also having a high erosion rate. And construction of new things or Concrete Jungle or a high rate of tourism will affect the land to a great extent. The people say that at this time the island needs to be preserved not to be developed.