Lakshadweep Administrator Issue – UPSC GS2

Lakshadweep Administrator:
  • Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands in the Arabian Sea totalling 32 square kilometres.
  • An administrator is a representative of the President in the Union Territory like a Lieutenant Governor.
  • Since UT of Lakshadweep does not have a legislature, any proposed change to its laws is brought through regulations by its administrator appointed by the President of India, instead of a Bill.
  • For these changes to come in effect, it requires the approval of Home Ministry (administering ministry for Lakshadweep).
  • Recent policies, in an attempt to develop island on the line of Maldives (tourism potential), have created backlash against administration
What are the controversial steps taken by administrator?
  • Development Authority Regulation: The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 empowers the Administrator to take over land and forcibly relocate people. It provides for strict punishments for those who resist.
  • Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation: Consumption or sale of beef will be an offence punishable by seven years in prison.
  • Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation: Those who have more than two children cannot contest panchayat elections.
  • Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation: Under the new Goonda Act, anyone could be held in prison without reason for up to a year. It is in a place that has a very low crime rate.
  • The traditional livelihood of fishing communities has been obstructed by tedious regulations that negate their access to coastlines. Their sheds on the coastal areas have been demolished on the ground of violating the Coast Guard Act.
What is unique about Lakshadweep?
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Proposed changes ignore the significance of cultural ecology, cultural geography and strategic location of Lakshadweep.
  • These changes are against the 2019 Kerala HC judgement which had recognised the special status given to the inhabitants for protecting their ethnic culture and traditions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • New draft legislation has brought preventive detention for ‘anti-social activities’ whereas the island has no case of murder or smuggling by local people.
How the Maldives development strategy is different from the Lakshadweep administration?
  • Tourism in the Maldives is centred on water villas in uninhabited islands, ensuring that very few coconut trees are cut.
  • Only limited homestays are allowed in Maldives.
  • Maldives has a ‘one island, one resort’ policy which has kept very little pressure on reefs low.
  • Since the rich and healthy reefs are essential for economic returns, its business model is about giving coral reefs economic significance.

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