The Praful Khoda Patel-led administration of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep on Thursday said that it was not using the police to quell democratic protests led by the islanders against a transportation crisis in the archipelago, The Indian Express reported.
In a statement, the administration said that it had arrested some protestors who had violated prohibitory orders.
A severe transportation crisis hit Lakshadweep after the administration cut on the number of passenger ships between the islands and the mainland. The archipelago has 36 islands, but 10 of these are inhabited.
Out of a population of approximately 65,000, the majority goes to the mainland, mostly Kerala, to either study or work and rely on passenger ships for travel, according to The Indian Express. However, the number of the ships linking the islands and the mainland has been reduced from seven to two.
The residents of Lakshadweep have been carrying out demonstrations over the depleted fleet of passenger ships.
On Thursday, the administration said that it was committed to the all-round development of the islands by “initiating various schemes and policies”, PTI reported.
“Local people have been supporting the administration wholeheartedly for the developmental efforts,” the statement claimed. “However, with the aim to malign the image of administration, create resentment and spread rumours among the residents of Lakshadweep, certain elements have been using social media platforms, print and electronic media and infusing false and fabricated information.”
“Protests which violate the law with an aim to create a fear psychosis against the government machinery so as to wean away the genuine support of people to the welfare measures of Lakshadweep administration have to be dealt with by the police to uphold the law,” it said.
Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, a former Gujarat MLA of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been accused of being indifferent to the problems of the Muslims, who constitute nearly 90% of the island’s population.
Patel has been at the centre of controversy over a slew of regulations, including a proposed cow slaughter ban, introduced in Lakshadweep last year.
In December, the administration also decided to change the weekly holiday for schools in the Union Territory from Friday to Sunday. For decades, schools in Lakshadweep have been closed on Fridays so that students could offer namaz.
When asked about the ongoing protests against the transportation crisis in Lakshadweep, Patel told The Indian Express that the islanders were “misguided”.
“What is taking place in the name of protests is a political stunt,” he alleged. “Similar to the high rush of passengers in trains during peak seasons, the vacation season is to be blamed for the increased demand for services and the associated difficulties.”
He said the administration had taken steps to resolve the problem.
“The Shipping Corporation of India is now repairing a major ship [MV Kavaratti] after it caught fire,” Patel said. “We managed to efficiently facilitate the journey of people by prioritising travel of students and senior citizens.”
He said his goal is to bring progress to the island, which had not been developed much since Independence, reported The Indian Express.
“There weren’t many options, even for drinking water,” he said. “We have been taking aggressive steps to improve the island in my last one-and-a-half years in office.”
The administration has built schools, colleges, a polytechnic and a nursing institution so that the residents do not have to travel to Kerala for education, he added.
“In this brief amount of time, we have also begun admissions,” Patel was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “Along with this, we have taken significant initiatives for tourism, sea protection walls, ice factories, and other things. Two significant airport expansion projects are now underway.”