The administration in Lakshadweep on Monday appealed to the Kerala High Court to lift the interim pause on the implementation of a ban on meat items from midday meals in schools and shutting down dairy farms in the Union Territory, reported The Indian Express.
On June 22, the Kerala High Court had paused the order and gave the Centre two weeks’ time to file its counter-affidavit. The High Court’s order came amid a massive outcry among the residents of the Union Territory as well as Opposition parties over a slew of regulations introduced by Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel.
The new regulations by Patel include a proposed cow slaughter ban, a preventive detention law in the Union Territory – which has one of the lowest crime rates in the country – and a draft law proposing sweeping changes in land development rules.
The Praful Khoda Patel-led administration on Monday made the appeal in a counter-affidavit against the June 22 order of a division bench of the High Court, which had stayed the decisions. The court order came after a resident of the island, Ajmal Ahmed, filed a petition seeking a stay on any reforms that may affect the islands’ culture and impinge upon constitutional rights.
- Lakshadweep residents stage protest with coconuts, palm leaves
- In idyllic Lakshadweep, Centre’s controversial administrator is sparking tumult
In its counter-affidavit, the island administration justified the decision to increase shipping operations between the Lakshadweep islands and Karnataka’s Mangaluru city. The authorities said that the port was closer to several islands in the Union Territory compared to the route to Beypore town in Kerala.
The administration said that it had conducted a detailed analysis and decided that it would not be prudent to keep the dairy farms operational as they had suffered losses of over Rs 90 lakh per year, reported The Hindu. This decision was not related to the proposed Animal Preservation Regulation, the island administration informed the court.
“The total loss of the two dairy farms during 2019-’20 was Rs 94,87,984,” the affidavit stated, according to The Indian Express. “During 2020-’21, the loss was Rs 92,58,184. 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 administration said the decision to remove meat and chicken from the mid-day meals was taken in January, adding that Patel was not part of the meeting with the Union Territory’s steering-cum-monitoring committee. The affidavit called the petitioner’s allegation that the administrator wanted a change in the mid-day meal “baseless”.
“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],” the affidavit read, reported The Indian Express.
The government affidavit also refuted allegations that the ban on alcohol had been lifted. The administration cited the Lakshadweep Prohibition Regulation, which allows granting of licences for the consumption and sale of liquor.
The island administration said that it had issued a few licences to the Tourism Promotion Society to serve alcohol at three beaches on three separate islands to non-residents. The affidavit clarified that this was done to cater to tourists’ needs, according to The Hindu.
The Patel-led administration also dismissed allegations related to the change of Covid-19 protocols in the islands. “Despite the Union Home Ministry directing removal of restrictions for interstate movements long ago, Lakshadweep Administration followed a strict SOP [standard operating procedure], restricting movements to the islands till the last week of December 2020,” the administration’s submission in the High Court read, according to The Indian Express.
On Monday, the administration also objected to a plea filed by Nationalist Congress Party leader PP Mohammed Faizal seeking that the proposed draft regulations be recalled.
Indian Administrative Services officer Ankit Agarwal filed a counter-affidavit that said that unless the draft rules became a law, they could not be challenged.
Opposition parties have criticised Patel’s decisions related to the Union Territory and have called for his removal from the post. The parties accused him of harassing locals and destroying the heritage of the island territory. Politicians have also alleged that Patel, who had served as Gujarat home minister, has been targeting Lakshadweep’s large Muslim population.
In recent weeks, the Lakshadweep administration has also refused to allow politicians from the Left parties and the Congress to visit the islands. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has also voiced its protest against Patel’s new rules for the Union Territory.
On June 14, residents observed a “black day” as Patel on Monday arrived in the Union Territory to meet officials and review the progress of various development projects. On June 28, the islands’ residents staged a protest against the administration’s order to impose a fine on them if coconut and palm leaves, shells or trunks are found in and around their homes.