Lakshadweep has been in the news for the last couple of days as its new administrator Praful Khoda Patel, a member of BJP, brought a slew of reforms leading to a huge row.
The UT, an archipelago of 36 islands with an area of 32 sq km, become a new political flashpoint due to the new policies that have upset people, politicians of the union territory and also its neighbouring state Kerala.
Who is Praful Patel?
The administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Patel took charge of Lakshadweep in December last year after the death of then-administrator Dinesh Sharma. Patel is the first politician to assume the administrator’s post in a union territory.
Since then, he has come out with drafts of the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation and amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules.
The administrator had also lifted COVID-19 protocols in Lakshadweep, which had zero cases last year, following which around 24 people have died of the virus so far.
According to Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal, the Administrator had not consulted people’s representatives before coming out with measures and drafts of the proposed regulations. Besides, Congress and some other opposition parties have accused the administration of “destroying peace and culture” of the islands.
What are the reforms/regulations?
1. Anti-Social Activities Regulation Bill 2021/ Goonda Act
The proposed law gives powers to the state to detain anyone without disclosing it to the public for up to one year. The UT has a lower crime rate.
2. Lakshadweep Animal Preservation and Regulation 2021
It is similar to anti-cow slaughtering rules. It effectively prohibits slaughtering cows, calf, bull and bullocks by mandating a license for killing animals. Persons who slaughter animals without a certificate are liable to be punished with imprisonment extending to one year and a fine of up to Rs 10,000.
The islanders have a lifestyle of using cows for agriculture, breeding or giving milk, and for meat consumption. The sale and purchase of beef and beef products are banned under the proposed law. Besides, in February, mutton and chicken were removed from schools’ midday meal menus.
3. Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021
The administrator has sought to bring changes in the panchayat regulations in Lakshadweep. As per the new proposed reforms, any person, who has more than two children, will be ineligible to contest panchayat elections. The UT has no assembly or lawmakers directly elected by the common people.
4. Land regulations
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation proposes changes in the existing land ownership and usage by giving sweeping, arbitrary and unchecked powers to the government to directly interfere with the islanders’ right to possess and retain their property.
It empowers the government to pick any land for development activities Activities including building, engineering, mining, quarrying and other operations have been listed under development activities
5. Sale of liquor
Due to its entirely Muslim population, the islanders abhor alcohol. So there exists a self-imposed prohibition, except on one island popular with the tourists, Bangaram. Now Patel gave nod to open liquor bars to encourage tourism in the island territory in three more islands.