Context:

Discontent is simmering beneath the calm, verdant environs of the Lakshadweep group of islands over a slew of regulations introduced by the new administrator, Praful Khoda Patel in the last five months of his rule.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the Design and Implementation of such policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021)
  2. COVID surge in Lakshadweep and relaxation of protocols
  3. New rules: Ban on contesting panchayat polls, Beef ban, Goonda Act
  4. Administration of Union Territories
  5. Power of parliament to make laws in UTs
  6. About Lakshadweep

Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021)

  • The Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021), notified on the administration’s website, proposes to change the existing land ownership and usage in Lakshadweep by giving sweeping, arbitrary, unchecked powers to the government (and all its bodies) to directly interfere with an islander’s right to possess and retain their property.
  • It empowers the government to pick any land for “development” activities provided under its regulation. Once picked, the land can be used as per the government sees fit, i.e., with no regards for the owner of the land.
  • The draft report raises concerns as it refers to “development” as activities including “building, engineering, mining, quarrying or other operations in, on, over or under, land, the cutting of a hill or any portion or the making of any material change in any building or land, or in the use of any building or land, and includes sub-division of any land.”
  • It also adds that “a development plan shall not, either before or after it has been approved, be questioned in any manner, in any legal proceedings whatsoever”.
  • The proposed developmental activities at such scale also threatens the fragile ecosystem of the coral islands.

COVID surge in Lakshadweep and relaxation of protocols

  • Reforms under the new administrator, Praful Khoda Patel saw the Lakshadweep archipelago descend from being a ‘COVID-free region’ for nearly a year into one with almost 7000 cases in May 2021.
  • The new administrator has been accused of diluting the standard operating procedure (SOP) which was in force on the island for preventing the spread of the pandemic.

New rules: Ban on contesting panchayat polls, Beef ban, Goonda Act

  • Another controversy is around the proposed ban under the Draft Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021 for individuals to contest panchayat polls if a resident has more than two kids.
  • The administrator has also been accused of trying to interfere in the traditional life of the people of Lakshadweep by the proposed “animal preservation” rules that seek to ban slaughter, transportation, selling or buying of beef products.
  • The introduction of a Goonda Act in the island that has close to nil crime rate and revoking of restrictions on alcohol in the name of tourism also have attracted criticism from the islanders.
  • Further, the sheds where fishermen used to keep their nets and other equipment were demolished by the new administration on the grounds that they violated the Coast Guard Act.

Administration of Union Territories

Articles 239 to 241 in Part VIII of the Constitution deal with the union territories and there is no uniformity in their administrative system.

  • Every union territory is administered by the President through an administrator appointed by him.
  • Administrator of a union territory is an agent of the Central government and is not the head of state like a governor.
  • The President can also appoint the governor of a state as the administrator of an adjoining union territory.
  • Not all the UT’s have an administrator, some are directly governed by president.

Power of parliament to make laws in UTs

  • The Parliament can make laws on any subject of the three lists (including the State List) for the union territories.
  • The President can make regulations for the peace, progress and good government of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu.
  • A regulation made by the President has the same force and effect as an act of Parliament
  • The Parliament can establish a high court for a union territory

About Lakshadweep

  • India’s smallest Union Territory, Lakshadweep is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands with an area of 32 sq km.
  • There are three main group of islands: Amindivi Islands, Laccadive Islands, Minicoy Island.
  • All are tiny islands of coral origin (Atoll) and are surrounded by fringing reefs.
  • The Capital is Kavaratti and it is also the principal town of the UT.
  • These islands are a part of Reunion Hotspot volcanism.
  • The entire Lakshadweep islands group is made up of coral deposits.
  • Fishing is the main occupation on which livelihoods of many people depend.
  • The Lakshadweep islands have storm beaches consisting of unconsolidated pebbles, shingles, cobbles, and boulders.
  • Minicoy Island, located to the south of the nine-degree channel is the largest island among the Lakshadweep group.
  • 8 Degree Channel (8 degrees north latitude) separates islands of Minicoy and Maldives.
  • 9 Degree Channel (9 degrees north latitude) separates the island of Minicoy from the main Lakshadweep archipelago.
  • In the Lakshadweep region, there is an absence of forests.
  • Pitti Island is an important breeding place for sea turtles and for a number of pelagic birds such as the brown noddy, lesser crested tern and greater crested tern. The Pitti island has been declared a bird sanctuary.

-Source: The Hindu, Times of India

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