He says life in the islands in pitiable State even after 70 years of Independence
Unfazed by mounting protests, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre has solidly backed the proposals of newly appointed Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel to develop the isles for premium tourism through the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021.
In fact, as early as 2019, NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant had approved an initiative “Holistic Development of Identified Islands” for the development of islanders on the ecologically protected isles of Lakshadweep as well as Andaman and Nicobar.
A NITI Aayog document, aimed at generating income for islanders, projected Budget Estimates at ₹266.70 crore and additional investment from the private sector at ₹788 crore for sustainable development.
However, sources said that the issue acquired a political dimension when Mr. Patel, who was the Minister of State for Home when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister in Gujarat, decided to tackle the multiple power centres in Lakshadweep, including MP representing the islands P.P. Mohammed Faizal, village panchayats and the district panchayat.
Mr. Patel, who is also the Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, told The Hindu over phone on Thursday that he had no issues either with the MP or the locally elected representatives in Lakshadweep “ I have no problems with anyone, after all I am holding a Constitutional post,” he said.
He said that the Lakshadweep administration was committed to developing the infrastructure in the archipelago as well as providing employment to the islanders. “The people of Lakshadweep are in such a pitiable State even after 70 years of freedom. We are trying to improve the lives of fishermen as well as coconut growers, ” Mr. Patel said.
He said that three eco-friendly water villa projects, on the lines of the Maldives, were being developed for tourism development in Minicoy, Kadmat and Suheli by the Lakshadweep Administration in collaboration with NITI Aayog and these would commence in August.
Optical fibre project
He said that the completion of the ₹1,072-crore submarine optical fibre cable project by 2023-24 would improve online education, e-medicine and local people would get new opportunities in the field of education, employment and business.
Until now, Mr. Patel said that only low-capacity aircraft such as ATR were able to land at the Agatti airport. “Now the administration has started the process of expansion of Agatti airstrip to allow the operation of Boeing and Airbus so as to facilitate connectivity and promote international and domestic tourism,” he said.
Act for internal security
Mr. Patel said that Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act had been conceived keeping in view the internal security of Lakshadweep. A few days ago, 300 kg heroin and 5 AK 47 rifles and 1000 live rounds were confiscated. Similarly, many cases of illegal smuggling of marijuana and liquor and POCSO cases have been reported.
“So strict and stringent laws are needed so that the youth here are not misguided. People having vested interests in such illegal business are protesting against the imposition of strict laws,” Mr. Patel said.
However, the Bills have to go through a long process, including ratification by the Ministry of Home Affairs.