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Lakshadweep administration justifies dairy farms closure, non-veg off midday meals

The UT administration stated this in a counter-affidavit, filed against the June 22 order of a division bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Shaji P Chaly, which had stayed the administration's decisions.

Lakshadweep administration justifies dairy farms closure, non-veg off midday mealsThe administrator for the unified UTs of Diu, Daman and DNH is former Gujarat minister Praful Patel, who was also handed additional charge of the UT of Lakshadweep last year. (File Photo)

The Lakshadweep administration on Monday urged the Kerala High Court to lift interim stay orders against a few controversial decisions of the Union Territory administration under Praful K Patel.

The UT administration stated this in a counter-affidavit, filed against the June 22 order of a division bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Shaji P Chaly, which had stayed the administration’s decisions.

The UT’s decisions were regarding closure of two dairy farms, and a change in menu of midday meals for Lakshadweep schools. The court had acted upon a PIL moved by an islander, Ajmal Ahmed.

The administration also justified the decision to increase shipping operations between Lakshadweep and Mangaluru, stating that the port is closer to several Lakshadweep islands, compared to Beypore in Kerala.

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Countering allegations that Patel had changed Covid-19 protocol, and thereby caused a spike in cases in the islands, it stated, “Despite the Union Home Ministry directing removal of restrictions for interstate movements long ago, Lakshadweep Administration followed a strict SOP, restricting movements to the islands till the last week of December 2020.”

The counter-affidavit of the administration, filed by senior Central government standing counsel S Manu, stated after a detailed analysis it was felt imprudent to continue the functioning of the dairy farms, as they cause losses amounting to more than Rs 90 lakh per year for the administration.

It said there are only 34 animals each at Kavaratti and Minicoy, with average daily milk production of 170 litres. “The total loss of the two dairy farms during 2019-20 was Rs 94,87,984 (Rs 94.8 lakh). During 2020-21, the loss was Rs 92,58,184 (Rs 92.5 lakh). The dairy farms together cater to the needs of only 300 to 400 people among more than 20,000 population of the two islands — that, too, in a limited manner,” the affidavit stated.

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It said the petitioner’s claim that islanders were engaged in animal husbandry activities is incorrect. Given the “geographical isolation (of Lakshadweep) and scarcity of green fodder, animal husbandry activities are not common and popular in the islands,” it stated.

The affidavit mentioned that the decision to take out meat and chicken from the menu of midday meals was taken in January, at a meeting of the UT-level steering-cum-monitoring committee. This meeting, it pointed out, was not attended by Praful K Patel, and the allegation that the administrator wanted to change the midday meal is thus “baseless”.

The decision to change the midday meal menu has met with criticism that this is an attempt to upset the islanders’ traditional food habit.

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The affidavit pointed out that there are no rules or any stipulation that meat and chicken will be provided in midday meals to schoolchildren. “States and UTs have the freedom to decide on the menu…satisfying nutritional requirements,” it stated. “As meat and chicken are normally part of the regular menu in almost all Lakshadweep families, the UT administration decided to omit them, and instead provide fruit and dry fruit, which are (consumed) less (by the islanders).”

On the decision to increase shipping operations between Lakshadweep and Mangaluru, the administration stated in the affidavit, “Facilities available at Mangalore are much better than that of Beypore. Operating ships and barges from Mangalore will help reduce time taken for operations to many of the islands”, and also reduce expenses.

The petitioner had said that administrator Patel should not implement any reforms “infringing the ethnic culture, heritage, food habit and affecting the serene and calm atmosphere in Lakshadweep Islands and also infringing the constitutional right guaranteed under Article 19 and 300A…”

Admn opposes plea seeking recall of proposed draft regulations

Kochi: The Lakshadweep administration on Monday opposed a plea filed by the island’s MP, P P Mohammed Faizal, seeking recall of the proposed draft regulations, among others, saying it was part of a campaign against it.

The counter-affidavit filed by Ankit Agarwal, administrative officer, said that unless the draft regulations become law, no challenge was maintainable against them.

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Faizal had earlier moved Kerala High court seeking a direction to call back the proposed regulations and not to implement them until further objections are called for. He had also sought directions to place vernacular versions of the draft regulations in public domain. The UT’s affidavit stated: “It is also submitted that Malayalam has not been adopted as the official language of Lakshadweep under Art.345 of the Constitution. The language mainly spoken by people of Lakshadweep except in Minicoy Island is Jeseri, which has no script, and English is taught in all schools of Lakshadweep.”

The administration said that the writ petition was not maintainable and is liable to be rejected at the threshold itself.

First published on: 13-07-2021 at 03:40:44 am
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