Amid criticism of a slew of measures taken by the Lakshadweep administration in the past few months, the island’s Collector S Asker Ali on Thursday alleged a “misinformation campaign”, The Indian Express reported.
“Outside Lakshadweep, people are protesting with vested interests and propaganda,” Ali said, while speaking to reporters in Kochi in Kerala. “But in Lakshadweep, it’s still very peaceful. Whatever we do, we do it through a democratic process.”
Lakshadweep administrator and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Praful Khoda Patel has faced objections after he introduced a slew of regulations in the first five months of his tenure, triggering a massive outcry among Opposition parties, who have called for his removal. Some local members of the BJP have also opposed the new rules.
The new regulations 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 regulations.
Speaking on the draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation 2021, Ali said that like any other state, internal security was becoming a “major issue” in the islands, NDTV reported. He said recently 300 kilograms of heroin, five AK-47 rifles and 1,000 rounds of ammunition had been confiscated.
Notably, the boat from which the items were confiscated was captured by the Indian Coast Guard with Sri Lankan nationals and there was no mention of any link to Lakshadweep, The News Minute reported.
On being asked about the proposed law on beef ban, Ali said it was a “policy decision”.
“We have not taken away non-veg from the mid-day meals in schools and are providing fish and egg items,” Ali said, according to The News Minute. “This is because it is easily available during the present lockdown period.” He added that many other states have also implemented cow protection laws.
In defence of the proposed Lakshadweep Development Authority Act, the collector said that the draft regulations were aimed at ushering in development in the Union Territory. “Even after 73 years of independence, development is low in Lakshadweep, even internet facilities are inadequate,” he said. “While Maldives, an island country, is a tourist hub...We aim to develop Lakshadweep likewise.”
The Act aims to widen roads, map and earmark areas for construction, mining, commercial or residential activity. The proposed law has been criticised for trying to create a land development structure that is arbitrary, given the wide powers it gives the administration to take over private land.
Facing criticism for the draft laws from various entities, Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel had also defended the proposals on Thursday saying that these were efforts to develop the region and help its residents.
Opposition parties have criticised Patel’s decisions related to the Union Territory and demanded his removal from the post. The parties accused him of harassing local people and destroying the heritage of the island territory. Opposition leaders have also alleged that Patel, who had served as Gujarat home minister, is carrying out the political agenda of the BJP to target Lakshadweep’s large Muslim population.