The Political Science Department of JNRM deserves all praise for organising a seminar on a very relevant topic. It was a seminar that opened many avenues for discussion and debate and also brought forth many issues that need to be given serious thought by every one including the politicians. Both the speeches of the Lieutenant Governor as well as the Chief Secretary at the inaugural function pointed towards the inability of
New Delhi to understand Andaman and Nicobar Islands yet.
The recent Chinese adventurism made the subject more relevant. The strategic importance of Andaman and
Nicobar Islands was stressed and acknowledged by all speakers at the seminar.
The Political autonomy aspect did create a light flicker but could not generate much discussion. And, there was an implied tone of reluctance about political autonomy when the Chief Secretary mentioned about the extent of grant received by the
Islands from the central coffers and the share of grant each panchayat receives every year.
Moreover, the absence of politicians from any party also made the sessions on political autonomy a bit indifferent. The presence of Member of Parliament or even the elected Chairperson of Zila Parishad or PBMC could have made the session a little bit more vibrant, not because they could offer great solutions, but it will provide them an opportunity to know that their causes are also discussed "threadbare".
The papers on sustainable development vis-à-vis tourism, power sector and agriculture could have been a bit more pragmatic with focus on economical independence of the
Islands. Although the Chief Secretary in his keynote address had mentioned that thinking out of the box will only free the Islands from economic dependence on central coffers, the third aspect of the seminar could not throw any surprise.
Diverse views like Prof Malviya throwing all weight behind defence forces ignoring the aspirations of the people, Prof Thandavan asserting that participatory democracy can only provide good governance and Prof Banerjee demanding all settlers to abandon the Islands and leave it to the indigenous tribes did raise many eyebrows.