Explained: LDA Regulation, Lakshadwaap

Poor infrastructure is perhaps one of India’s biggest weaknesses and has been for many years. To tackle this issue, the government has taken many steps involving the establishment of development authorities. Development authorities aid in the planning and implementation of developmental activities.[1] Development authorities were set up in Delhi first, followed by other states such as Maharashtra and Haryana, where they’ve had their fair share of successes and support. However, the same can’t be said for when the regulation for the setting up of a Lakshadweep Development Authority was announced, under the administrator Praful Khoda Patel. Great discontent and issues followed after the announcement, against many of the actions that have been taking place in the Union Territory. This article aims to explore the reasons for which the people of the Union Territory are against the LDA in particular amongst other acts which have been introduced, what the regulation comprises, how the government can use it, and suggestions for how the situation can be made better.

This regulation was introduced by exercising the powers conferred under Article 240 of the constitution.[2] The LDA empowers the administrator, who represents the government to constitute a planning and development authority under it that allows the use of any area that has been identified as having “bad layout or obsolete development” for further development and usage.[3] The regulation defines development as an activity that carries out building, mining, quarrying, engineering, etc in the land that has been acquired and mainly making any material change in the land, or the building on it or in any use of the two.[4] For this entire process, the administrator will be using few key sections of the regulation. Firstly, Section 5 allows the government to declare any area of the territory as a “planning area” following which a planning and development authority can be constituted for the chosen area using Section 7.[5] Through Section 7, development plans and town planning schemes are made, which allow the acquisition of the properties of any islander for implementation.[6] Sections 16 and 18 are utilized for this planning, after which the plans have to be notified to the public through newspapers and a formal notification, as mentioned in Section 22. Objections will be invited for the draft plan, which will be evaluated by a committee that will propose certain changes for the final plan, which afterward has to be submitted to the government for approval, as instructed in Section 23.[7] After approval, the authority can share the final development plan with the public as mentioned in Section 24. Now, all the publications that have been made shall, notwithstanding anything mentioned in the Land Acquisition Act be deemed as declarations by the act.[8] This implies that the government can only use the land for public purposes and acquire the land in a manner as prescribed in the act. However, the regulation can change the rules of the act due to powers under Section 240, thus defeating the purpose of the Land Acquisition Act itself.[9]

A few other sections of the regulation such as section 33 provide information as to how every area of land taken under a development scheme can be used for many purposes ranging from commercial and industrial and residential.[10] According to section 40, if an individual wants to divide his/her plot, or make a private street type of area, would have to seek permission from the development authority.[11] Any individuals violating this or any other provision can be fined to the extent of two lakh rupees along with a daily charge of twenty thousand if the violations continue to go on, as laid down in section 40.[12] Sections such as 53 and 61 show the power in the hands of the authority by stating that the government can take land from any one person and give it to another, and also that all the land required for the scheme will be in the control of the development and planning authority.[13] It is also in the hands of the government to decide how much compensation they would want to award to an affected islander. These are just a handful of the sections that display the extent to which the government holds power.

The decisions have shocked not just citizens but also a few politicians and officials who have voiced their discontent with the administrator. In fact, the Kerala assembly adopted a resolution asking the centre to recall Patel and do everything possible to help solve the ongoing plight of the islanders. [14] This comes as no shock, as other bills which have been introduced with the regulation which will be discussed in the following sections, have features that perhaps, dictate the way an islander should go about their lives and hamper any future prosperity of the society.

Due to the autocratic nature of this regulation, a plethora of complaints have arisen. The regulation has the potential implication of the administrator removing or relocating citizens without their consent by way of developmental activities, and having legal immunity in the sense that they cannot be questioned for these actions by anyone.[15] There have been other actions by the government that have raised concerns in the public, such as

  1.  Patel’s Anti-Social Activities Regulation Bill. This bill gives the state power by means of which they can detain anyone without disclosing the reason for the act to anyone, for up to one year.[16] One can see how such a bill can be problematic and also violative of numerous human rights.
  2.  A third action by the government has also resulted in conflict, the Animal Preservation, and Regulation Act. The Act prohibits slaughtering cows, by mandating a license for killing animals, which most likely will not be given for cows.[17] Since the locals have a lifestyle of using cows for activities such as agriculture and consumption, this law has posed to a be a problem. Furthermore, alcohol consumption was only popular on one island of the territory, due to the population being largely Muslim.[18] This has been increased to three islands by Patel, thus causing greater unrest among the islanders.
  3.  Lastly, the decision by the administrator to change the standard operating procedure for the COVID-19 testing process and the quarantine period has angered the public greatly. [19] There has been a great spike in the cases reported, which was actually zero till January 2021 due to the previous SOP, a change in which has resulted in thousands of positive cases in the past few months. [20] The islanders blame this largely on the government and the lack of sufficient healthcare on the island has worsened the situation.

Thus, these recent happenings have led to a growing resentment amongst the public, also leading to PIL’s being filed for this issue. A government has to be respectful of one’s way of living, their culture, look after their citizen’s health, and establish provisions that help in doing so. Many of these are basic human rights also mentioned in the laws of our country. The acts listed above go against a lot of the provisions granted to a citizen by their constitution, actions that will, to no surprise, result in backlash. The citizens have various reasons that justify their problems with the Lakshadweep Development Authority regulation in particular which have been listed down below.

  1. Firstly, it violates the fundamental rights that article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution has guaranteed to all Indian Citizens.[21] Article 21 guarantees a right to livelihood, which implies that a place to stay is essential for one to live. If the government, without notice or reason, orders a citizen to move out of their residency instantly, especially in a UT as densely populated as Lakshadweep, it will definitely result in hardships for the individual to find a new place to live in and thus, violates one’s fundamental right.
  2. Additionally, after the property has been taken over, the LDA regulation places responsibility on the owner to develop the holding as per the instructions given and in case of non-compliance, they can also be penalized heavily as stated above due to the power in certain sections of the regulation.
  3.  Ecological concerns have also been raised as the citizens feel it is neither ecologically sustainable, viable, nor feasible to carry out regulation of this sort.[22] Lakshadweep is a group of islands, hence the success of any of the activities without great discomfort being caused to the citizens might be an extremely tough process.
  4.  Another reason for the unrest is that the people’s representatives weren’t consulted before drafting the regulation, which has perhaps led people to believe that their voices aren’t being heard and acknowledged.[23] An important objective of the Land Acquisition Act that was mentioned earlier, is to ensure that the process of land acquisition is transparent and is done in consultation with the people and local government.[24] The regulation hasn’t done so, thereby violating the act to a great degree.  
  5. The communities on the island also have a way of living that hasn’t been hampered in a long time, a lifestyle that will potentially be destroyed if members keep getting relocated or evicted from their homes.[25]

The unrest that has been caused due to the public feeling unheard has a few other causes. Many of the plans included in the regulation speak about building new highways, railways, roads, etc.[26] These plans are in reality inconsistent with the needs of the people. Firstly, the geographical conditions of the Union Territory might not even be suitable for the development of the aforementioned facilities. Also, the public needs improvement in infrastructure such as ships, and boats that help them connect better with the Indian Mainland.[27] Connecting with the mainland is essential for many on the islands and their day-to-day activities, this has already been hampered due to the current pandemic, the government should help where they can and focus on the development of these facilities to provide stability first. Many in the local community also fear that the regulation might’ve been introduced to increase the real estate benefits for capitalists.[28] A majority of the properties, 94.8% approximately are owned by the Scheduled Tribes on the islands and they suspect that their properties might be taken over, through practices such as “transferable developmental rights”.[29] Thus, due to all of the reasons mentioned above and more, there is a conflict between the government and the people of Lakshadweep.

That being said, the government has its reasons for introducing this regulation which are:

  1.  As mentioned at the start of this article, poor infrastructure and development are some of India’s biggest weaknesses. Development authorities came into being to combat this very weakness. This is surely an essential step towards the development of the territory, but shouldn’t come at the cost of the livelihood of the locals.
  2. The authorities have stated that the regulation will help in giving a major boost to tourism activities.[30] Lakshadweep is already a place of attraction to many, popularly known as the coral island. Hence, further development in the land and properties will increase the attraction, benefitting the Union Territory. Great development can also result in competition to the neighboring nation of Maldives, a hotspot for travellers in the last few years.
  3.  Development of the territory through this also holds strategic importance due to the rising Chinese inroads in the nations of the Maldives and Sri Lanka[31].
  4. Along with the development of properties, there is bound to be an increase in income and employment levels as well. Thus, the government and NITI Aayog aim to generate income and employment to help the islanders in the holistic development of their territory.[32]
  5. The government has brought these new rules for improving the development potential of the land, which helps in easing up the process of securing land leading to faster infrastructural development.[33] Lastly, the Anti-Social Activities regulation act which was mentioned earlier in the paper, has been introduced for security purposes. In March 2021, the government had found 300 Kg’s of heroin, 5 AK 47 Rifles, that have led them to adopt such stringent measures.[34]

Most of these reasons will also increase the revenue generated to a great extent, which is one of the priorities for any government. Thus, the government when questioned, states the above reason for wanting to go ahead with the regulation.

As we can see, the government and the public represent two opposing sides in terms of their wants or needs. Hence, to tackle this issue, there has to be a middle ground that is found, where both parties can come to an agreement. The administrator of the territory, shouldn’t in name of development promote the overtaking of the islander’s property and attempt to justify this. The people have a right to their property and should be able to exercise this right. Furthermore, under Section 19 of the Land Acquisition Act, there has to be an establishment of settlement areas where the affected families and members of society can go, and the information about this scheme shall be made along with the final plan declaration.[35] No such information was found in the regulation, and thus, if the government wants to go ahead with the regulation in any situation, they must be asked to abide by this Section of the Act. The part of the regulation which states that the government cannot be questioned in any legal proceedings also has to be done away with as accountability is one of the key features for a democracy to function smoothly. The administrator also needs to ensure that there is no violation of any acts in place and listen to the needs of the people. To help the situation, the President can avoid giving assent to these new laws and send them back for reconsideration and amendment.[36]

A dialogue between the islanders and the government is imperative to tackle the growing issue and must be arranged immediately. The dialogue should aim to tackle not just the malpractices and oversights of the regulation, but various other happenings that have been mentioned through the course of the paper. Each and every citizen has certain rights and must be granted the same. There must be a limit on the areas which can be taken over for development and the people who might be potentially affected need to be given proper means to recover. Furthermore, in terms of development, even the people’s needs must be accommodated and arrangements must be made to follow through with these plans. It must be realized that the intention of the government isn’t all bad, however, there are better ways to achieve what they aim to, with less stringent measures. A government that takes over one’s land as and when they wish to, detains people for reasons they keep secret, ignores the needs of their citizens, and fails to take their opinion into consideration, will face trouble in a democracy. Instead, they should aim to find a middle ground, compromise where they can by putting the needs of their people first, and be respectful of their cultures and practices. To conclude, the government shouldn’t be arbitrary in their behavior, they need to be held accountable and take into consideration the needs of their people, the people who have elected them into power, to ensure a good standard of living and social cohesion.

[1] Uzair Ahmad Khan, How are Development Authorities Constituted and what do they do Blog.iPleaders (2019), https://blog.ipleaders.in/development-authorities-constituted (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[2] Kurian K Jose, A Critical Analysis On The Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 livelaw.in (2021), https://www.livelaw.in/columns/lakshadweep-development-authority-regulation-2021-rehabilitation-and-resettlement-act-2013-174773  (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[3] Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) : New Rules by Praful Khoda Patel, journals of India (2021), https://journalsofindia.com/draft-lakshadweep-development-authority-regulation-2021-ldar-new-rules-by-praful-khoda-patel  (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[4] Id.

[5] Supra note 2.

[6] Supra note 2.

[7] Supra note 2.

[8] Supra note 2.

[9] Supra note 2.

[10] Supra note 2,

[11] Supra note 2.

[12] Supra note 2.

[13] Supra note 2.

[14] Recall Lakshadweep administrator: Kerala assembly passes resolution, The Times of India (2021), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/recall-lakshadweep-administrator-kerala-assembly-passes-resolution/articleshow/83133159.cms (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[15] Supra note 3.

[16] Nidheesh MK, What is happening in Lakshadweep and why it matters moneycontrol.com (2021), https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/what-is-happening-in-lakshadweep-and-why-it-matters-6944211.html  (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[17] Id.

[18] Supra note 16.

[19] Supra note 16.

[20] Supra note 16.   

[21] Supra note 3.

[22] Supra note 3.

[23] Supra note 3.

[24] Supra note 2.

[25] Supra note 3.

[26] Supra note 3.

[27] Supra note 3.

[28] S. Anandan, Widespread resentment in Lakshadweep over a slew of bad law proposals The Hindu (2021), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/widespread-resentment-in-lakshadweep-over-a-slew-of-bad-law-proposals/article34634201.ece  (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[29] Supra note 3.

[30] Supra note 3.

[31] Supra note 3.

[32] Supra note 3.

[33] New Lakshadweep Regulations: Issues and Rationale – Explained, pointwise, ForumIAS (2021), https://blog.forumias.com/new-lakshadweep-regulations-issues-and-rationale (last visited Jun 6, 2021).

[34] Id.

[35] Supra note 2.

[36] Supra note 33.

Author: Isha Khurana from JGLS, Sonipat.

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