Lakshadweep ST association seeks rolling back of airport project
The Lakshadweep Scheduled Tribe Welfare Association has demanded the Centre to roll back a proposal to construct an airport at Androth Island, considering the potential environmental and social ramifications to the the island. A Misbah, the association president, told reporters that the move made by the Airport Authority of India (AAI) would require the cutting down of 20,000 coconut trees and displacing 35 families. The Planning Commission had asked the AAI to consider the construction of an airport with a 5,500-feet-long runway at Androth to enable ATR movement in the island.
“Lakshadweep already boasts of an airport at Agatti Island. Besides this, there are proposals to expand the existing strip by 400 meters. Air connectivity is a need, but the proposal seeks to set up an airport in the middle of Androth at the cost of the islanders. The proposal is to acquire 75 acres of land for the entire project. We demand the government to reconsider the proposal,” he said.
The association, meanwhile, demanded the Lakshadweep administration to create 30 posts at the exclusive wharf constructed by the Kochi Port Trust for Lakshadweep Islands at Willingdon Island. “The wharf is yet to be fully functional. The Lakshadweep Development Corporation Limited (LDCL) is forced to pay huge fees for docking at the Port Trust. While we have been provided an exclusive facility, the administration should ensure that it is being used effectively,” Misbah said.
The association also called for immediate action to set up a Women’s Vikasana Corporation, which was promised when former President Prathiba Patil had visited Lakshadweep two years ago. Also, the recommendations made by the National Schedule Tribe Commission to ensure that hostels be provided to students who study at Kochi and Kozhikode are yet to materialise.As more than 90 per cent of the islanders are schedule castes/tribes, the Centre should consider bringing them under the APL and BPL categories. The price of food products, and especially rice, has shot up hugely over the past few months, association members said. Misbah said that if the administration fails to take any action based on these demands before December 31, they would approach the Centre directly.
The association came out against the LDCL for not implementing th e developmental projects entrusted with them and alleged that the Corporation is just focusing on operating ships, that too unsuccessfully.
The Centre should ensure that the natives are given administrative posts, they said.