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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

BJP govt has no business to destroy Lakshadweep’s heritage, harass its people: Priyanka Gandhi

A slew of proposals ranging from a ban on beef to disqualification of panchayat poll aspirants with more than two children forms part of draft regulations for Lakshadweep cleared by its Administrator Praful Patel.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 25, 2021 7:02:46 pm
Indian National Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha/File)

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too has joined the massive outcry against the new controversial draft regulations for Lakshadweep saying the “BJP government and its administration have no business to destroy its heritage, to harass the people of Lakshadweep or to impose arbitrary restrictions and rules on them.”

A slew of proposals ranging from a ban on beef to disqualification of panchayat poll aspirants with more than two children forms part of draft regulations for Lakshadweep cleared by its Administrator Praful Patel.

The regulations also include introduction of an anti-Goonda Act in the island territory where crime rate is very low, and establishment of a development authority with powers to acquire land for development purposes.

Extending her full support to the people of Lakshadweep, Gandhi in a series of tweets said the residents of the UT deeply understand and honour the rich natural and cultural heritage of the islands they inhabit and have always protected and nurtured it.

Asserting that dialogue sustains democracy, Priyanka Gandhi asked, “Why can’t the people of Lakshadweep be consulted? Why can’t they be asked what they believe is good for them and for Lakshadweep? How can someone who knows nothing about their heritage be allowed to use his power to destroy it?”

The Congress leader further said that she will always stand with the people of Lakshadweep and fight for their right to protect their heritage. “It is a national treasure that we all cherish,” she said.

CPM and Congress leaders of Kerala, across the waters, have also protested against the UT Administrator’s move.

On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Administrator’s actions posed a serious challenge to the culture and life of the people of Lakshadweep. “Such acts cannot be accepted. Kerala has long-standing ties with Lakshadweep. There is a bid to destroy that. Persons concerned should keep away from such a narrow-minded approach,’’ he said.

Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal PP, has also spoken out against what they call the “autocratic style” of the Administrator. They have also written to the Centre, demanding that Patel be recalled and his proposals reviewed.

According to Faizal, the Administrator had not consulted people’s representatives before coming out with measures and drafts of the proposed regulations.

He added that the immediate trigger for the unrest was the draft of the Lakshadweep Development Authority. “It is aimed at usurping people’s land. The Authority will get huge power to take over land without protecting the interests of land owners. There is a move to develop roads as per National Highway standards. Why does Lakshadweep require huge highways? The Administrator is furthering the business interests of people in the mainland,” Faizal alleged.

Faizal has alleged that the Administrator did not consult panchayat authorities before preparing the draft of the Panchayat regulations (amendment) draft. “There is a proposal to prevent those who have more than two children from contesting the panchayat elections. He has modified the existing rules with an ulterior agenda,” he alleged.

Patel, who was the Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, had taken charge of Lakshadweep in December last year. Since his appointment, 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.

Meanwhile, the ban on beef proposed under the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation has contributed to the unrest in the Union Territory where Muslims make over 90 per cent of the population. As per the draft, no person shall directly or indirectly sell, keep, store, transport, offer or expose for sale or buy beef or beef products in any form anywhere in Lakshadweep.

The draft empowers the Administrator or a competent authority to seize beef or beef products being transported. The guilty can end up with prison terms which may extend to 10 years but shall not be less than seven years and a fine which may extend to Rs 5 lakh but shall not be less than Rs 1 lakh.

Besides, the people, according to the Lakshadweep MP, are also agitated over the dilution of norms for serving liquor at resorts. As part of tourism promotion, resorts in populated islands will be allowed to supply liquor. Earlier, liquor was allowed only at resorts in the uninhabited Bangaram island.

Administrator Praful Patel is also being blamed for the spike in Covid-19 cases during the second wave. The mandatory quarantine for people entering the islands from the mainland was done away with and now only RT-PCR negative reports are required for entry.

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