PORT BLAIR: The Andaman and Nicobar administration has operationalised an alternate sea route from Port Blair to Baratang Island by lauching a boat service as part of the implementation of the Jarawa Policy of 2004 and complying with the commitment given by the administration to the Supreme Court.
According to reports, the first ferry on the Alternate Sea Route, MV Strait Island, reached Baratang Islands around 10 am on Sunday with nearly 15 passengers.
Jarawa activists around the world have been demanding the creation of this alternate sea route to protect the Jarawas from outsiders, especially tourists, many of whom come to the Andamans with a desire to see the tribes while crossing a stretch of the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR), going towards Baratang Island.
However, local residents and tour operators were firmly against closing the ATR for any reason, as they believe the road is a lifeline for the islands.
Tour operators fear that closing the ATR, once the Alternate Sea Route is ready, will result in financial loss to hundreds of tourist vehicle owners in the Andamans. However, the secretary (Tribal Welfare) clarified that the portion of ATR passing through the Jarawa Tribal Reserve in South Andaman District from Jirkatang to Middle Strait shall remain open for both islanders and tourists since no decision has been made by the administration on closing it down for tourists.
The tourists have been advised by the Andaman administration to avail of the boat service being provided by the Directorate of Shipping Service, Port Blair, for their visit to Baratang both for the safety and security of the Jarawa tribe. Videos uploaded by tourists on YouTube had earlier showed exploitation of the Jarawas by tourists.
Videos showing tribals being asked to dance in exchange for food had sparked international outrage. Previously a UN committee had asked New Delhi to close the ATR. The new route will help protect the tribe from poachers.