Explained: Panchayat Regulation, 2021 (Lakshadweep)

The Lakshadweep Administration recently has proposed a new guideline which has been facing controversy recently, the regulation being that any person with more than two children will be ineligible to contest in panchayat elections. The public domain seeking comments from public are already facing huge criticism from various political parties regarding the new draft of Panchayat Regulation 2021. Agitation hosts been blending among political gatherings in the island over different new choices by the Island organization.

Not only this 2 child policy but there are other regulations also which have brought political unrest in the island such as the ban on cow slaughter and beef; serving liquor to tourists; land acquisition powers and anti social activities regulation. These are the 5 new regulations which has suddenly brought an unrest in the current scenario of Lakshadweep. Provision 14 of the draft Panchayat Regulation says that those with more than two children cannot challenge in the panchayat elections. Neither can an individual with more than two children be an individual from a gram panchayat or proceed with all of the things considered. Be that as it may, it offers special case for the individuals who have multiple children as on the date of initiation of the regulation as long as the number of kids doesn’t increase. The clause also given exemption to those who have one or more than one child born in a single delivery within one year from the date of commencement of the Act.[1]

Salient Features Of The New Regulations –

  1. Cow Slaughter and Beef – A request from the Administration tries to boycott the butcher of cow, calf, bull, and bison without a declaration from a competent authority. It denies the deal, transport, and capacity of meat and beef items. Punishments incorporate a prison term of as long as one year and a fine of Rs10,000.
  2. Two-child Policy – Under the Draft Panchayat Regulation 2021, the Administration expects to bar individuals with multiple kids from turning into an individual of the gram panchayat. For the individuals who as of now have multiple kids, the guideline does not preclude them provided they don’t have further kids after the date on which the standard becomes effective.
  3. Serving alcohol to tourists – The Administration has chosen to permit alcohol to be served at resorts on inhabited islands. At present, denial is set up on completely occupied islands, with alcohol served uniquely at resorts on the uninhabited Bangaram Island. The Dist Collector explained that alcohol licenses would be offered uniquely to resorts for vacationers, not for local people.[2]
  4. Land acquisition powers – The Administration brought in a draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) to oversee the development of towns on the islands, with sweeping changes in the way land can be acquired and utilized. It talks of the declaration of ‘planning areas’ and constitution of ‘planning and development authorities’ for preparing a land-use map and register, ostensibly for large projects.
  5. Anti Goonda or Anti-Social Activities Regulation – The draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation accommodates forces to confine an individual for as long as one year to keep him from “acting in any way biased to the upkeep of public order”. It takes into consideration confinement for anti-social exercises from a half year to a year without legitimate portrayal.

Need For The New Regulations –

  1. It intends to adjust the use in Lakshadweep by giving arbitrary, subjective, unchecked forces to the public authority. This in turn is straightforwardly meddling with the island’s occupant’s entitlement to occupy and retain their property.
  2. The Regulation likewise gives the forces to the Government to pick any land for “advancement” exercises that have been given under its guideline.
  3. When the land is picked, it very well may be utilized according to the public authority sees fit. This implies the proprietor would have no power over the land at all in light of the fact that the land would be accommodated a “public reason”.

This draft report additionally raises concerns as improvement would mean the exercises including “building, designing, mining, quarrying or different tasks in, on, finished or under, land, the cutting of a slope or any bit or the creation of any material change in any structure or land, or in the utilization of any structure or land, and incorporates sub-division of any land.”[3]

Numerous states in the nation have enacted cow protection laws and the law in Lakshadweep is on a similar premise. Fish is accessible in bounty and furthermore, eggs are a decent source of protein so these are to be given rather than red meat. Likewise, remembering the turn of events, upliftment, and strengthening of ladies, the public authority has given half reservation to ladies in the Panchayat Act. Women here can likewise design the future improvement of the island and can assume control over the reins of its future.[4]

The proposed improvement will be executed with least effect on the island’s biological system which is viewed as an economically protected region. It will be in consonance with the bigger vision of sustainable development and supported Integrated Islands Management Plan (IIMP) of the Lakshadweep.[5]

Arguments –

  • Regarding Cow Slaughter and Beef – The residents of Lakshadweep have protested that the rule is a direct infringement of their culture and tradition which was followed since time immemorial. They allege that the rule was decided without proper consultation from the local authorities.
  • Regarding the Sale of Liquor to Tourists – Inhabitants have alleged that the move will prompt a proliferation of alcohol deals on the island, which had been observing close restriction up to this point.
  • Regarding Land Acquisition Powers – Occupants have challenged the manner in which it was ready and pushed through the meeting without proper consultation, they fear that huge infrastructure and the tourism industry activities can destabilize the ecology, and that the notice gives powers to the Administration to eliminate little landholdings of the ST occupants.
  • Regarding Anti Social Activities Regulation – Occupants are sceptical of the requirement for a particularly stringent law in an UT with one of the most minimal crime percentages in the country. They affirm it has been acquired to arrest those who went against to the Administration. Terming the bill unwanted and unwarranted, the SSP urged the authorities not to implement such harsh laws in Lakshadweep. The ability to keep an individual past the regional limits of Lakshadweep under Section 14 of the proposed bill is unjustifiable, he said adding that it is probably going to be misused and may encroach on an individual’s authentic rights. Definition of ‘remorseless individual’, ‘property grabber’ and ‘unapproved structure’ are probably going to be misinterpreted and misused. These (laws) are unwarranted and ill-conceived.[6]

Critical Analysis –

There has been an uncomfortable unrest among the islanders and for the past few days, the hash-tag #SaveLakshadweep has been spotted via web-based media. A few celebrities and political leaders from Kerala have represented the island and have cautioned that the islands have fallen into some unacceptable hands. The issue started with the passing of Dineshwar Sharma, the previous Administrator of Lakshadweep on December 4, 2020 after an extreme lung infection. Praful Khoda Patel, a former MLA from Gujarat who has worked with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the then Gujarat bureau, assumed responsibility as the new Administrator. After this, started a large number of changes in the Panchayat Act that numerous inhabitants are seeing as a push towards an imperious guideline.[7]

According to representatives of the islanders, there was no public consultation before the governor implemented the reforms. They feared that Patel’s motive was inspired by the destruction of the traditional life and cultural diversity of the people of the island. Even in the states with high fertility rates, there was no reason for a two-child policy to work. A five-state study conducted by former IAS officer Nirmala Buch found an increase in unsafe sex-based elective abortions in countries that have adopted the policy. Men divorced their wife and ran for local elections, and the family offered to adopt children to avoid deprivation. The law proposed by Panchayat is 1,187 women and 1,000 female, sex ratio in Lakshadweep. It can also disrupt the male-female relationship between humans as the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is only 1.6 which is one of the lowest in India. These are the other states which have already enacted the laws regarding the disqualification of a person having more than two children from contesting in elections are Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.

Not only this but there is an increase in the burden of elderly dependency ratio and an intensification of the burden of non-infectious diseases. Requirement of finances for the elderly and their health-care needs. Thus, it requires significant financial resources. Instead, the Lakshadweep government should invest in general social development, health, and education, with a focus on gender equality, economic development, and access to family planning services, regardless of culture or religion.[8]

Development Authority Regulation gives off an impression of quite a significant antagonistic change, and as indicated by a report in The Hindu, many of the islands’ occupants have written to the Administration restricting it. This change, which once basically, would take into consideration “organized and reformist advancement of land in both metropolitan and country regions and to protect and improve the conveniences thereof; for the award of authorization to foster land and for different forces of command over the utilization of land; to present extra powers in regard of the obtaining and improvement of land for arranging”. The guideline would likewise take into account building, designing, mining, quarrying and other such procedure on the environmentally rich and delicate islands under its meaning of “advancement”.[9] Also, according to Section 72 of the Act, it authorizes the Planning and Development Agency to evict anyone who is found occupying land under the final plan established by the proposed law. The draft states that “If the Planning and Development Administration refuses or prevents the evacuation or seizure of that person by the other party, the arbitrary tribunal shall arrange to remove or return the person’s property in accordance with the local level Planning And Development Authority.”

Officials have also closed all farms in the department, and “animal welfare” laws are said to cover the slaughter, transportation, sale or purchase of beef products. Islanders also said that Patel had ordered to remove non-vegetarian food from the midday meals menu. Until the new regulation came the kids used to have non veg dishes as they do not get good vegetables in comparison to the mainlands. Also, non vegetarian food and beef had been a part of their culture.

The Goonda Act being introduced within the island that has negligible rate and revoking of restrictions on alcohol for benefit of the tourism enterprise, has attracted criticism from the islanders.

Thus the Panchayat Regulation of 2021 is facing a huge criticism from the general public of Lakshadweep and the newly appointed Administrator Mr. Praful Khoda Patel is the man behind the enactment of the new regulations. Though there are many cons in the proposed Act, there is one good thing about the enactment i.e. it proposes women empowerment and fifty percent of reservation for them in the Panchayat Act and we know that where there is women there is a huge chance of development in the future of that place.

Conclusion –

Also, Lakshadweep, the group of 36 islands is known for its exotic and for its sun-kissed beaches and also for the lush green landscape. Lakshadweep in Malayalam, Sanskrit, and Marathi means one hundred thousand islands. Lakshadweep is India’s smallest union territory, the island is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands. In Lakshadweep, the natural landscapes, the sandy beaches, an abundance of flora and fauna and the absence of a rushed lifestyle enhance the mystique of the island. On 1st November 1956 during the Indian states of reorganization the Lakshadweep were separated from the Malabar district and organized into a separate union territory for administrative purposes.

The Panchayat Regulation of 2021 provides several provisions for the development of townships, acquisitions, and transfer of owned properties by the residents of Lakshadweep. There has been a state of unrest among the common people or the locals of the island. The cause of this is because of the new act which was introduced by the BJP induced Govt. The people are not against the political party but they oppose the views and the administrators autocratic rule. People and the politicians on the island stress on the fact that the differences are not due to the Muslim or Hindu ideology, as projected by the media because more than half of the population there is Muslim. The new law draft Panchayat Regulation for gram Panchayat election, came in force on 23rd March 2021, this law states that if any person have more than two children then they will be ineligible to contest in the gram panchayat election and neither can a person with more than two children be a member of the gram panchayat. One who has more than two children before the date of commencement of the new law for gram panchayat they can participate in the elections as long as the number of children does not increase any further.

This law was implemented by the administrator of Lakshadweep Praful Khoda Patel and he is also the administrator of Daman and diu and after the demise of former administer Dienshwar Sharma, Praful k. Patel took the administrative charge of Lakshadweep. The islanders stood by the previous BJP led Government but now with the sudden death of the previous administrator and the appointment of Mr.Praful Patel there has been a huge chaotic situation in the island. So, the occupants are not yet ready to accept the sudden changes brought in the Panchayat Act, 2021 by Praful Patel and they highly oppose the ideals of his new laws.

Henceforth, I would like to conclude by saying that the customs which are an age old practice cannot be simply taken away from the locals. They have the right to follow their traditions and cultures. The new amendments in the Panchayat Regulation, dissatisfies in general the residents of the island. As their fertility rate is already the lowest in India, the two-child policy for contesting in the Panchayat elections seems unacceptable but the reason for which this amendment is being made is because Lakshadweep’s population density is around 2149 people/sq km according to a survey of 2011 Census which was much higher than the national average of 382 people/sq km.[10] As I have already mentioned previously there is a good side of this regulation which is women are being given more opportunities and in a state where women are empowered, the future development of the whole society seems bright. And, instead of imposing severe population control measures, the administrators can take a different approach and do things differently like taking steps to curtail further reduction in the Total Fertility Ratio (TFR) and to provide Social Service Benefits to the residents, such as paid maternity leaves and better childcare facility to families that have more than two children.

[1] More than 2 kids? Lakshadweep may deny you chance to enter poll fray, The New Indian Express, (February 28, 2021), https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2021/feb/28/more-than-2-kids-lakshadweep-may-deny-you-chance-to-enter-poll-fray-2269996.html 

[2] New regulations for Lakshadweep, Civilsdaily, (May 29, 2021), https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/new-regulations-for-lakshadweep/

[3] Tulika Tandon, What is LDAR 2021 and why are people against it? Jagran Josh, (May 21, 2021), https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/what-is-lakshadweep-development-authority-regulation-ldar-2021-and-why-are-people-against-it-1622031169-1

[4] Times Face Off: What’s at stake for Lakshadweep?, The Times Of India, (June 4, 2021), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/times-face-off-whats-at-stake-for-lakshadweep/articleshow/83216599.cms

[5] Ibid 4

[6] Supra 1

[7] Geetika Mantri, An Assault on culture and nature: Why Lakshadweep is against Administrator Patel, The News Minute, (May 25, 2021), https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/assault-culture-and-nature-why-lakshadweep-against-administrator-patel-149467

[8] Lakshadweep’s proposed two-child norm for panchayat polls ‘flawed’, The Hindu (May 28, 2021), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lakshadweeps-proposed-two-child-norm-for-panchayat-polls-flawed/article34668515.ece

[9] Supra 7

[10] Moushumi Das Gupta, These are the 3 Lakshadweep draft laws that have triggered controversy, The Print (May 28, 2021), https://theprint.in/india/these-are-the-3-lakshadweep-draft-laws-that-have-triggered-controversy/667336/

Author: RIddhiman Roy Choudhuri from KIIT School of Law.

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