Social and environmental scientists, social activists, ecologists and geographers have appealed to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan to intervene immediately to stop the reforms that are under way in Lakshadweep and to review them urgently.
“The changes being proposed, apparently for the welfare of the people, should be implemented only after a thorough consultative process. The programmes being planned should have a long-term vision and follow a regional, need-based, consultative approach rather than the top-down way being envisaged now,” they said in a letter to the Governor on Wednesday.
Expressing shock over the happenings in Lakshadweep, they said the ethnic community structure of this unique bit of land lying afloat the Arabian Sea had withstood the vagaries of the ocean and weather. The occupants of the island had adapted and found a niche that enabled them to cope with the limitations of land-and- freshwater availability.
The social fabric, built on an ecosystem-based economy linked to fishing, was based on cooperation, tolerance, acceptance and mutual dependence, they said in the letter. While proposing the reforms, no consideration or due respect had been given to the time-tested ways of land use, land ownership, ocean resource utilisation and or livelihood practices adopted by the community. To add insult to injury, the culture and traditions of the ethnic group had been overlooked and efforts were being made to interfere in the food habits, reproductive freedom and self-reliance of the inhabitants of the island.
The existing methods of decision-making using one of the oldest forms of democratic decentralisation which added to the cohesiveness of the people in the islands would be be torn apart by these changes proposed, the letter said. If high-volume tourism was promoted, it would affect the carrying capacity of the 32 sq km of the inhabited islands and adversely impact the life of the people, the group said in the letter.
The Governor had been urged to intervene to set things right in the islands.
The signatories include D. Nandakumar, former Professor of Geography; S. Santhi, environmental researcher and scientist; Radha Gopalan, environmental scientist; Gopakumar Pillai, ocean hydrographer; Usha P.E., social activist; Ashok S., human resource consultant; Jolly Varghese, geographer; Renu Henry, environmental activist, and Anitha S., ecologist, subject expert on ecology of Lakshadweep.