The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR), 2021, released in the tumultuous times of the Covid-19 pandemic, signals a brazen intent to disempower the indigenous people of Lakshadweep, the country’s most vulnerable archipelago.
This regulation gives sweeping power to the administrator, and by extension the Central Government. The draft directly threatens the existing land ownership and usage in Lakshadweep by giving arbitrary and unchecked powers to the government (and all its bodies) to directly interfere with an islanders’ right to possess and retain their property.
Section 29 of the draft empowers the government to choose any land for “development” activities. Under this regulation, the acquired land can be used as the government sees fit, with no regard to the will of the land-owner. The draft provides a deliberately vague construction of the term “public use”, allowing it to be easily abused by the administrator and other authorities. If implemented, the proposed regulation will be catastrophic for the fragile ecosystem of Lakshwadeep, which is very rich in biodiversity. It is in clear contradiction of the constitutional mandate to protect India’s environment and natural biodiversity.
What’s worse than this vicious proposal is the fact Praful Patel, the infamous administrator, has a record of high-handedness. The very first law reform of the administrator since taking office was the introduction of the Goonda Act in a place where prisons are almost empty. Secondly, the draft panchayat notification provides that persons with more than two kids are not eligible for participating in panchayat elections. The Animal Preservation Act seeks to ban beef in a place with a majority Muslim population. Many more such eccentric acts and regulations have been imposed on the local people.
We are extremely concerned that this rich island filled with Flora and fauna, and having a unique indigenous culture and heritage, is set to be colonized by a hollow ‘development’ agenda. Our constitution has given provisions for the protection of the rights of indigenous people and their land. This act is clearly a betrayal of the constitutional spirit of inclusivity and development in harmony with nature and natural biodiversity.
In this regard, Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) strongly demands that the proposed draconian LDAR 2021 be immediately revoked. As the administrator Praful Patel has clearly been proved to be inept in handling the affairs of the island, he must be immediately recalled. We stand in solidarity with the people of Lakshadweep in their rightful struggle against such draconian laws and incapable administration. We finally appeal to our fellow citizens to be sensitive with respect to the rights of our people and also to take care of our environment. We will surely not accept a trade-off between people and hollow slogans of development and tourism.