NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in the withdrawal of new regulations in Lakshadweep, saying they seek to penalise dissent and undermine grassroots democracy.
In a letter to the prime minister, he said all this is being done by the new Administrator Praful Khoda Patel in the guise of development and maintaining law and order.
"I request you to intervene in this matter and ensure that the above mentioned orders are withdrawn. The people of Lakshadweep deserve a developmental vision that respects their way of life and reflects their aspirations," Gandhi told the prime minister.
Noting that Lakshadweep's pristine natural beauty and its unique confluence of cultures have drawn people for generations, he said the custodians of its heritage seek to safeguard the archipelago for posterity.
"However, their future is threatened by the anti-people policies announced by the administrator of Lakshadweep, Shri Praful Khoda Patel. The administrator has unilaterally proposed sweeping changes without duly consulting elected representatives or the public. The people of Lakshadweep are protesting against these arbitrary actions," the former Congress chief said.
Gandhi said the administrator's attempt to undermine ecological sanctity of the island is evident in the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation issued recently.
The provisions of the regulation, he said, undermine safeguards pertaining to land ownership, dilute environmental regulations for certain activities and severely limit legal recourse available to affected persons.
"Livelihood security and sustainable development are being sacrificed for short-term commercial gains. The provision in the draft Panchayat Regulation that disqualifies members with more than two children is blatantly anti-democratic," he said.
The Congress leader highlighted that the new administrator has also proposed changes to regulations like the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, the Lakshadweep Animals Preservation Regulation and lifting of restrictions on sale of alcohol and termed them as a deliberate assault on the cultural and religious fabric of the local community.
He said the attempt to cut ties with the Beypore port strikes at the close historical and cultural ties with Kerala.
Despite the pandemic, the administration has demolished structures used by the fisherfolk, fired contractual workers in various government departments, and relaxed quarantine norms leading to a lethal spike in Covid cases, he charged.
"Under the guise of development and maintaining law and order in a low crime union territory, the draconian regulations penalise dissent and undermine grassroots democracy," Gandhi told the prime minister in his letter.
The Congress has been demanding the immediate recall of the Lakshadweep administrator, who it says is a politician and not a bureaucrat.