- The 93 signatories have sought withdrawal of the controversial decisions
- They have sought a full-time, people-sensitive, responsive Administrator
- Lakshadweep Collector said the reforms were "much needed" for development
93 retired top civil servants from across the country have signed a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against a series of controversial decisions by Lakshadweep's administrator Praful Patel.
The letter from the Constitutional Conduct Group states that they are not affiliated to any political party but believe in neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution.
"We write to you today to register our deep concern over disturbing developments taking place in the pristine Union Territory (UT) of Lakshadweep in the name of 'development'."
Taking strong objections to a series of controversial drafts, the signatories have stated, "It is clear that each of these draft regulations is part of a larger agenda that is against the ethos and interests of the islands and islanders," the letter reads, stating that these decisions have been taken without consulting the people of Lakshadweep.
"Each of these measures smacks not of development but of alien and arbitrary policy making, in violation of established practices that respect the environment and society of Lakshadweep. Taken together, the actions and far-reaching proposals of the Administrator, without due consultation with the islanders, constitute an onslaught on the very fabric of Lakshadweep society, economy and landscape as if the islands were just a piece of real estate for tourists and tourism investors from the outside world", the letter further states.
The 93 signatories have sought for the controversial decisions to be withdrawn and a "full-time, people-sensitive, responsive Administrator be appointed, even as some of the draft orders are pending approval before Union Home Ministry.
These objections come days after several people, including those who belong to Lakshadweep took to social media with several online campaigns like #SaveLakshadweep. Elected representatives from Kerala - from the Congress as well as the Left - have been protesting the "unilateral" drafts of the administrator, after Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal raised concerns.
Delegations of parliamentarians from both the parties have been denied permit to enter Lakshadweep.
In a sign of Kerala's anger against these developments, a unanimous resolution was passed in the state assembly against the 'reforms'.
On the controversial Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR), the signatories allege, "Claiming that there has been no development in Lakshadweep for the past seventy years, the LDAR reflects a model of land and tourism development which includes resorts, hotels and beachfronts on the 'Maldives model' unmindful of the differences between the two island groups in size, population, number of islands and their spread." They sai this constitutes a serious threat to the fragile ecosystem of Lakshadweep.
The group of former civil servants that includes retired IAS, IFS, and IPS officers as well as a former Lakshadweep administrator, claims that another draft, widely known as the Goonda Act, has generated fear that the real purpose of the regulation is to "smother dissent or protests against policies, actions of the Administrator or on any other issue", especially in a territory where, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, crime rates are very low compared to the rest of India.
"Other regulations proposed by the Administrator target food and dietary habits and religious injunctions of the local islanders, 96.5% of whom are Muslims. The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation will, if passed into law, effectively ban the killing of bovine animals and prohibit the consumption, storage, transport or sale of cattle meat in an island environment where there are inherent limits to livestock development. No such prohibitions apply to several states in the North-East and even the state of Kerala next door," the retired bureaucrats write, while raising objections to several other decisions.
Lakshadweep Collector K Asker Ali had held a press conference in the last week of May, backing administrator Praful Patel's draft orders as "much needed reforms for the development of Lakshadweep", hitting out at the online protests as "misleading propaganda".