As a symbol of the overall situation of the country, Lakshadweep commands the attention of every advocate of democracy in the country. For, its people, who have been living in peace so far, are in such a state of turbelence as never experienced. And the reason for this is a regime that suffocates their lives through actions against its people. An anti-government sentiment has taken over the islands as never witnessed before. More than that, an administration is running roughshod over the population with stubbornness. When the Administrator arrived in the islands most recently, the islanders gave vent to their protest in as vociferous a manner as they could. But Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, in no mood to pay heed, is moving on with his agenda. But he had to deviate from several precedents to pretend not to see the popular protest. Not only did he avoid Kochi in his route to the island, but he also had to return earlier than scheduled.
It is the NDA governments that redefined administration as a perpetual conflict with the people and their interests. Lakshadweep has become the latest victim of this model. Their crisis is one of the entire country. The first characteristic of this model is that despite a façade of democracy in governance, the use of resources will be guided by the interest of the ruling class – interest that will run counter to that of the people. Secondly, even as it boasts of being a democratic system, there will be no room for people's welfare in either legislation or in the executive. Thirdly, the regime will block all democratic means of protest and expression of opinion , thus pushing the people to a state of absolute helplessness. No wonder Lakshadweep has thus started displaying its facets of institutionalisation of exploitation, legitimising autocracy and suppression of popular dissent.
Praful Patel who claimed to be trying to bring about development in Lakshadweep, kicked off that endeavour by stripping people of employment and their means of livelihood. He cut off jobs in the pretext of cutting expenditure to the extent of imposing restrictions even in the facility of air ambulance to shift patients needing emergency care to the mainland. And in the process of this cost-cutting, Praful Patel himself flew to the island on a chartered Dornier aircraft. A flight that would normally have been possible at Rs 30,000 was made at a cost of Rs 23 lakhs – all at the expense of the people of the islands. This is a Lakshadweep version of the upended priority of executing the costly Central Vista project of Delhi during the difficult time of Covid pandemic. Laws are being twisted to enable all this. Praful Patel's travel expenditure alone during six to seven months, has crossed Rs 90 lakhs. And this when the budgetary allocation legally approved under 'Grant Demand' is a mere Rs 20 lakh, the corollary being that there is a change of heads of account to accommodate his travel bills. Thus the Administrator at his own will is incurring expenditure that is permitted only if passed by parliament. When the Central finance ministry has given strict instructions to ministers and top officials to exercise tight controls over expenditure including domestic travel, Patel indulged in a Rs 23-lakh luxury journey, as though rules and laws are meant only for others.
Every reform being implemented now in Lakshadweep goes to prove that development is not for the people. All the new laws introduced there were formulated by the Administrator without people's participation. The rules empowering the administration to confiscate anything including private land are not congruent with the Constitution or laws passed by the parliament. Even as they are being presented as draft laws, they have started being implemented. When democratic and peaceful protests are attempted against this, even that is not being allowed. Those who disagree get evicted by force. Those who give voice to dissent are framed on different criminal counts. It is for the first time in independent India that such a total disconnect between the rulers and the ruled is happening, and with diminishing remedies. Even the courts are often incapable of offering relief to the people. When freedom and civil rights face major threats, the responsibility of the people increases. If a country means its people, the welfare of the country consists in the welfare of its people. And it is for the people to see that realised. Naturally, protecting Lakshadweep is not a cause isolated from protecting the country.