Lakshadweep administrator and a former Gujarat BJP leader Praful Khoda Patel who is facing stringent criticism over a slew of regulations that he intends to bring to the islands, claimed he has no malafide intentions, and that his decisions will only usher in development.
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021 grants the administrator the power to “declare any area to be a planning area” on the islands, for the purpose of development, and will also allow the administrator to acquire any land required for a public purpose under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Speaking to a news agency, Patel said he intends to develop Lakshadweep like neighbouring Maldives, a renowned international tourist destination. “The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation will usher in development and go a long way in improving the social and economic indicators on the islands, which have so far lagged behind despite having the potential”.
Patel added: “The islands are similar to Maldives and we want to develop them on similar lines. We want to develop sustainable infrastructure and promote sustainable tourism.”
On an average, 5 lakh travellers land on the islands every year, according to officials in the UT who said the island has huge potential for tourism. At present, tourism activity is restricted to only government operations and an entry permit is mandatory for all tourists visiting the islands. Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands, of which 11 are inhabited. They have a total geographical area of 32 sq km and the population of approximately 70,000 has a low per capita income and high unemployment level of 13 per cent, according to the statistics made available by the authorities in the UT.
In 2007, the then Planning Commission prepared a ‘Lakshadweep Development report’, in which it noted that while the neighbouring island countries like Maldives developed their tourism potential and prospered, the UT could not. “Despite its small size in terms of geographical land mass, it has a large territorial water (20,000 square km) and exclusive economic zone (400,000 sq km), which makes it strategically important for the country,” the report notes.