Amid widespread outrage against the contentious reforms and ‘development’ plans of the Lakshadweep administration, Collector Askher Ali has invited tenders for the construction of over 370 beach and water villas in three islands in the Union Territory. Tenders have been called to undertake the project under PPP (public-private partnership) mode in Minicoy, Kadmat and Suheli islands.
The Lakshadweep administration has been drawing flak from locals and environmentalists for many recent contentious reforms and proposals, with allegations that it is trying to hinder the cultural fabric and eco-sensitivity of the region.
This includes the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation that allows construction activities in ecologically rich and sensitive areas and eviction of people occupying land that falls under a final scheme formulated under the proposed law.
The tender notification issued on July 31, invites 'request for qualification (RfQ)’ and request for proposal applications (RfP) from interested developers to undertake development, operation and maintenance' of the projects through design, build, finance ,operate and transfer on PPP basis. The three projects include construction of 150 ‘eco tourism beach villas and water villas’ in Minicoy Island, 110 ones in Kadmat Island and 110 ones in Suheli Island.
In May, at a press meet held by Lakshadweep Collector Ashker Ali to address the controversies, he had stated that three ‘eco-friendly tourism water villas’ project will start by August.
The Collector had also stated that the project will be constructed in collaboration with NITI Aayog in the model of Maldives.
Following the issuance of the tender, political party leaders have also come out, raising apprehensions. Rajya Sabha MP and CPI(M) leader Elamaram Kareem alleged that the contentious reforms which are being criticised are seemingly paving the way for the NITI Aayog project.
“This is a really condemnable move. The Lakshadweep administration is not even consulting the people or the local leaders there. This particular project is part of a Union government’s project carried out through NITI Aayog, it is for that they have made all these contentious reforms. And these projects will be destructive to the sensitive environment in the region.”CPI(M) leader Elamaram Kareem to The News Minute
The MP is one of the CPI(M) leaders from Kerala who was denied permission to visit the Union Territory following the controversy.
Elamaram Kareem alleged that even in Parliament, the issues pertaining to Lakshadweep are not being allowed to be discussed. “From the beginning of this issue, I have been trying to raise the problems during the Zero Hour discussion. We gave notice for it repeatedly for a week, but it was not allowed,” he adds.
Other contentious reforms, which include the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation and amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules, have been proposed or implemented after Praful Khoda Patel took charge as the new Administrator.
A widespread campaign with the tag #SaveLakshadweep also recently hit social media, in an attempt to draw the entire country’s attention to the protests in Lakshadweep.
(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)