A group of 93 former civil servants on Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over the newly proposed regulations in Lakshadweep. The signatories asked the prime minister to remove Praful Khoda Patel as the administrator of the Union Territory.
In a letter addressed to Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, the retired bureaucrats said that each of the new draft regulations is “part of a larger agenda that is against the ethos and interests of the islands and islanders”.
The signatories sought the withdrawal of the regulations and appointment of “a full-time, people-sensitive and responsive administrator”.
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.
Criticising the land reform rule, named the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, the signatories said that “it 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.”
On the detention law, Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, the letter pointed out that crime rates in Lakshadweep are very low, compared to other parts of the country.
“It has generated fears that the real purpose of the Regulation is to smother dissent or protests against the policies and actions of the administrator or on any other issue,” the letter stated.
The letter also raised objections to the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulations, suggesting that it “target[s] food and dietary habits and religious injunctions of the local islanders, 96.5% of whom are Muslims”.
“A ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in keeping with the religious sensitivities of the overwhelmingly Muslim population has been lifted, once again ostensibly to promote tourism, giving both the beef ban and lifting of prohibition on alcohol an avoidable communal colour in a sensitive— Excerpt from the letter to prime minister
maritime region where communal disharmony could harm national security.”
The signatories said that the new measures “smack of alien and arbitrary policy making” and “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.”