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Centre aims to turn Lakshadweep into a world-class tourist destination – Why locals are concerned?

Centre aims to turn Lakshadweep into a world-class tourist destination – Why locals are concerned?

Relevance

  • GS 3 || Environment || Environment & Ecology || Sustainable Development

Why in news?

  • The new administrator has proposed four new regulations that would alter the island’s culture, livelihood, ecology, and level of development.
  • Local leaders are opposing new Lakshadweep regulations proposed by the island’s new administrator. The smallest union territory in India (Lakshadweep) has been undergoing major changes in recent days.

Background details

  • Recently, the administrator of Lakshadweep brought changes to the following acts to promote infrastructural development to boost tourism.
    • Development Authority Regulation-It calls for the creation of a Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA).The act defines development as the carrying out of the building, engineering, mining, quarrying, or other operations in, on, over, or under the land. It also includes making any material change in any building or land or the use of any building or land.
    • Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation– It allows the administrator to order a person’s detention for a period of up to one year.It can be ordered if the offender’s actions jeopardize the preservation of public order.
    • Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation– It disqualifies people with more than two children from becoming gram panchayat members.
    • Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation-It makes it illegal to slaughter cows, calves, bulls, or bullocks. The slaughter of animals for religious purposes, other than cows and bulls, will necessitate a certificate from the authorities.
  • Civil society has criticized them for prioritizing economic development over environmental sustainability. Furthermore, they endanger the indigenous peoples’ pristine culture.

What distinguishes Lakshadweep?

  • A union territory- Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands in the Arabian Sea totaling 32 square kilometers. It has had a calm existence as a Union Territory.
  • It consists of 12 atolls, three reefs, five submerged banks, and ten inhabited islands and is a single-district Union Territory (UT).
  • The natural landscapes, sandy beaches, an abundance of flora and fauna, and lack of a hurried lifestyle add to Lakshadweep’s mystique.
  • Muslims account for more than 93 percent of the population, with the majority belonging to the Sunni sect’s Shafi School.
  • Except for Minicoy, where people speak Mahl, Malayalam is spoken on all of the islands. Every island has a matriarchal society.Because of their economic and social backwardness, the entire indigenous population has been classified as Scheduled Tribes.

Arguments in favour- Governments stand

  • Lakshadweep as another Maldives
    • According to the Lakshadweep Administration, the changes are in line with the Maldives’ development path.
  • Development potential- The government has enacted new regulations to boost the island’s development potential. They will reduce the procedural and regulatory requirements for land acquisition, allowing for faster infrastructure development.
    • The government believes that new rules will aid in the achievement of the goals of the Holistic Development of Islands Program.
    • The Island Development Agency (IDA) was established in 2017 to look into the holistic development of islands.
  • Tourism potential-the new provisions would increase the island’s tourism potential. Lakshadweep, like the Maldives, will be developed into a “renowned international tourist destination” by the government.
  • Employment generation-The program focuses on the creation of jobs for islanders through tourism promotion as well as the export of locally produced seafood and coconut-based products.
  • Women empowerment- The Panchayat regulations will pave the way for women’s empowerment and upliftment. More women representatives would be elected as a result of the reservation, resulting in gender-sensitive policies.
  • Improvement in security situation-Fourth, regulations such as the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA) are critical for improving UT’s security situation.

Arguments against-Criticism of the moves

  • Maldives’ development strategy is quite different from that of the Lakshadweep administration
    • Without the active participation of the public, Lakshadweep has adopted a very different strategy.
    • Tourism in the Maldives is focused on water villas on uninhabited islands, which ensures that very few coconut trees are cut down.
    • Second, only limited homestays are permitted. Finally, the Maldives has a ‘one island, one resort’ policy, which has kept the pressure on reefs to a minimum.
    • Rich and healthy reefs are necessary for economic returns, its business model is based on providing economic incentives to coral reefs.
  • Fear of outsider’s settlements-they appear to serve the interests of commercial developers rather than indigenous islanders. The development plan can be used to free up land that can then be sold to outsiders.
    • In DevSharan vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2011), the Supreme Court stated that any attempt by the State to acquire land by promoting a public purpose to benefit a specific group of people or to serve any particular interest at the expense of the interest of a large section of people, particularly the common people, defeats the very concept of public purpose.
  • Fear of mass eviction relocation-the authorities charged with land development have broad powers. It is capable of creating comprehensive development plans for any area and relocating people against their will.
    • The new rules place the onus on the owner to develop his holding following the development plan or face a heavy penalty in the event of non-compliance. This could lead to more forcible evictions and mass relocations.
  • Damage to the coastal ecosystem– the ease with which approvals are granted may jeopardize the region’s pristine ecological environment. The tourism infrastructure will hurt the region’s fragile coastal ecosystem.
    • The Lakshadweep Islands are already feeling the effects of sea-level rise, which is happening right now. However, while many countries have coastal protection measures in place, and India has some coastal protection measures as well, these are insufficient.
  • Ecological Concerns-It is neither ecologically sustainable nor socially viable and the people’s representatives were not consulted before drafting it.
  • Need of PASA-like act- The rationale behind PASA is difficult to understand given that UT has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Only 121 crimes were reported on the islands in 2017, 86 in 2018, 186 in 2019, and 89 in 2020, according to NCRB data.
    • It could be abused to limit free speech and the right of the masses to protest.
  • Development is on the track then why such laws are being enacted– The UT has grown quite well over the years and does not require such drastic changes.The island is well-equipped to support rainwater harvesting and solar power generation.
    • Since 1986, all islands have been connected by helicopter, and high-speed passenger boats were purchased in the 1990s to improve connectivity.
    • UT has a literacy rate of more than 90%, and the poverty line in terms of GDP is only slightly higher than the World Bank’s poverty line.
    • It also has a wind-powered desalination plant, which was donated by the Danish government.

Lakshadweep – As a tourist hub

  • The islands are famous for their rich marine life due to the stable temperatures of the waters. Lakshadweep islands are a famous beach destination of India with crystal clear blue waters and coral reefs.
  • The islands are ecologically fragile and tourism will be promoted with certain guidelines. There are limitations like the availability of potable water, electricity, and waste treatment. Companies looking to invest in the tourism sector should be able to self-generate the requirements.Increased ocean temperatures and changing ocean chemistry are the greatest global threats to coral reef ecosystems.
  • Adoption of a holistic approach for tourism promotion in Lakshadweep-Due to its isolation and scenic appeal, Lakshadweep was already known as a tourist attraction for Indians since 1974. This brings in significant revenue, which is likely to increase. Since such a small region cannot support industries, the government is actively promoting tourism as a means of income in the Bangaram and Kadmat islands.
    • NITI Aayog’s vision 2019: It identified water villas and land-based tourism projects as the development issue faced by the islands.
    • It also suggested zoning-based land acquisition and focused on sustainable development.
    • However, it ignores the fragile environment and culture.
  • Promoting Ease of Tourism:To truly ensure a seamless tourist transportation experience we need to standardize all interstate road taxes and make them payable at a single point which will facilitate the ease of doing business.
  • Marine fishery-In Lakshadweep, the estimated potential of marine fishery resources is about one lakh tonnes of tuna and tuna such as fished and sharks. India needs to develop more scientifically its fishing systemand other related aspects such as freezing, packaging, etc.
    • Through Pradhan Mantri MatsyaSampada Yojana address a critical gap in the value chain including infrastructure modernization, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control.
  • Agriculture-In December 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture declared Lakshadweep as India’s first UT to cultivate 100% organic produce.Lakshadweep can benefit much from marketing organic products such as desiccated coconut and coconut milk. The organic tag will allow farmers to realize a premium for the farm produce there.
    • The financial assistance under ParamparagathKrishiVigas Yojana earmarked for Lakshadweep under this scheme became a breakthrough for farmers of this territory. The ambient under this scheme shall be widened.

Way forward

  • Taking all stakeholders into confidence-The new laws should be discussed with all interested parties, including local fishermen and civil society. Their complaints should be heard and addressed to ensure greater acceptability.
  • Redesigning of the laws-New laws must be redesigned to reflect a people-centered approach. The current situation necessitates extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders to fill gaps and strive for long-term development.
  • Focusing on addressing the region’s growing income disparities.
  • Restricting indiscriminate trawling, which endangers the coral landscape. After witnessing excessive exploitation, the Maldives had already banned trawling activities.
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable policies will pave the way-The government should recognize the need to develop policies to increase employment opportunities, environmentally friendly fisheries management, sanitation, waste disposal, and expanding access to drinking water, with the youth preferring salaried jobs over traditional occupations after receiving a modern education.
  • Need for extra protection- Development on the archipelago requires a fine balance in addressing the environmental concerns and the needs of the people on the ten inhabited islands.
    • The sea-level rise triggered by global warming is also heavily impacting the archipelago’s beaches and

Mains model Question

  • Comment on why the legislation of reforms in Lakshadweep aimed at transforming the island into a well-known international tourist destination has received harsh criticism.

References