Monday, September 26, 2011

COVER STORY Strategic Importance of ANI: The FIST FIGHT

Strategic Importance of ANI: 

Can Government of India overlook the aspirations of the local population, and fortify the Islands sensing its strategic importance and the tall talks on sustainable development remain just in papers and lectures?

By Zubair Ahmed

The seminar on strategic importance, political autonomy and sustainable development had all the ingredients for an action thriller with Professor Malviya asserting on fortification of the Islands with nuclear arsenal, with a strong no to any kind of political autonomy, whereas, Prof Thandavan advocating people's participation for good governance and sustainable development. And Prof Banerjee throwing surprise by opposing both of them asking the settlers to abandon the Islands and leave it to the indigenous tribes.
"Demographic explosion is the biggest enemy of the Islands, and this enemy is within us, which needs to be addressed on priority," said Prof Gopalji Malviya, Head, Defence Strategy, University of Madras addressing the seminar on Strategic Importance, Political Autonomy and Sustainable Development of ANI.
Taking a dig on the elected representative and the demand for an Assembly, he said not to opt for political autonomy as it will destroy the Islands. He candidly admitted that democracy itself has many defects and those occupying the legislatures are incapable. He advised the islanders not to have same kind of a setup in the Islands.
Relying more on Chanakya's Rajdharma and less on Gandhi's non-violence, Prof Malviya vociferously demanded more teeth and less tail for the Defence forces in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He opined that New Delhi is yet to realize the importance of ANI. Prof Malviya said that the mental block that India's boundary ends with Kanyakumari needs to be cleared first. On the strategic importance of the geographical location of the Islands, he said that both Islamabad and Britain after Independence had made claim for the Islands. For Islamabad, it's too late now and Britain had thought it to be a white elephant, which they might be ruing now, felt Prof Malviya.
ANC was not created by the parliament and it was an executive decision, which shows our callous and non-serious approach. There is utmost adhocism in issues of national security. He also felt that as the landscape of the ANI is ocean, and the strategy should be to strengthen Navy and the overall command should be with Navy. The rotational leadership within the tri-services is not doing any good for the Command.
He asserted nuclear power for the Islands. The Islands need to have Brahmastra - Nuclear powered submarines to act as deterrent for any powerful enemy. We need to utilize the best in science and technology for defence as well as civil security. He said that nuclear energy resources are very important for the Islands.
On China's recent adventure into our territory, Prof Malviya said that China flexing muscles and Pak's hobnobbing with our neighbouring countries are the traditional threats, whereas, piracy, smuggling of contraband, transportation of nuclear waste, abandoned and delinquent ships and small arms smuggling, which may go to terrorists are the non-traditional threats the Islands face. The environmental threat as well the threat of maritime terrorism has to be dealt robustly by giving the Islands special status, Malviya cautioned.
Two Chinese warships have come to our waters threatening us. From Ammanthotta in Colombo, POK, Tibet and Coco Island, they are trying an enveloping strategy. We have never shown eyes threatening them. It's the Chinese way of asserting power. We need to adopt Chanakya's Rajamandala theory and assert ourselves that this region is India's territory. India needs to take cognizance of that. There is a need for a maritime security advisor, as the area and resources are vast and Navy alone cannot handle it without proper empowerment.
On lagging coastal security scenario in the country, Prof Malviya said that our country has nine states and 12 ministries dealing with coastal security and there is no proper deliverable security and information system at place. We already have been attacked twice by sea. "How many attacks to wake Bharat Mata?" he asked. We never learn lessons from the past. Even the British came through sea and colonized us. Every time there is an attack, we deal it as law and order problem.
There should be Coastal Security Networks, creating information system and involving local people. We should know who is coming and who is going.
On sustainable development, Prof Malviya said that some developments are also disaster. There is huge rise in population in the Islands. Can the Islands carry such weight? The number of vehicles has increased and how can the Islands absorb pollution generated by it? There should be a limit to growth. I don't want to see Islands turning into a concrete jungle. There is scarcity of land. With just 7% of land available, how much can the Islands develop? You need to think about the topography, the construction and the lifestyle here. The Islands cannot afford the kind of development that metros has.

Political Autonomy for Sustainable Development: Prof Thandavan

Political Autonomy for Sustainable Development: 
Prof Thandavan

ANI needs development, feels Prof Thandavan and he advocates for participatory form of government for good governance

Andaman and Nicobar Islands need more political autonomy and until and unless there is participatory democracy, there will be no good governance," said Prof P Thandavan, Head, Anna Centre for Public Affairs, University of Madras, presenting a paper on Governance and Political Autonomy and Development in ANI.
He suggested the form of assembly as in Pondicherry and Goa. A common man should have a major role in formulation of policy. He stressed on focussed development in the fields of education, health and agriculture. Political autonomy is the only way out. He disagreed with Prof Malviya and said that corruption is rampant everywhere, but we cannot do away with politicians or democracy. He said that one-man rule is nothing but monocracy. He said that sustainable development is only possible with people's participation in policy making and governance.
Shakti Sinha who chaired the session said that 100% of plan and non-plan expenditure of about Rs 700 crores for the Islands is met from Central Coffers. He said that the Islands generate about Rs 200 crores. But, the process for a system of participatory governance should be expedited. He however, did not buy the argument that the Islands lack democratic setup and said that the three tier PRI system has been made independent of each other and they enjoy autonomy at each level. He also suggested that the Islands can think about a legislature like New Delhi or Pondicherry.

The Islands Belong to Tribals: Prof Banerjee

Settlers Abandon the Islands.
The Islands Belong to Tribals: Prof Banerjee

Prof S Mukherjee, University of Kolkata without inhibitions spoke his mind while presenting a paper on Political Autonomy, Development and National Security; Some Reflections on the Archipelago. On the sidelines of the two-day seminar, Prof S. Banerjee spoke to the Light of Andamans

What's your opinion about the seminar and the topic?
The main issue that we all are dodging is our role in these Islands. Before we think or plan about the Islands, It should be clear that the original inhabitants of these Islands are the indigenous tribes. All others are settlers. We cannot decide the fate of these Islands.

What do you suggest?
The settlers must abandon these Islands and the tribes should be left to themselves. The Islands should be made a trust territory under United Nations. We have no right to be here. We need to atone for the historical mistake.

Why should the settlers leave the Islands?
The world's great genocides were carried out against the indigenous tribes of Africa, North America and Australia. The same thing has happened here. British were the first colonial power, who occupied the territory, which belonged to the tribals. They made a mistake. And, after independence, we should have left the Islands. We continued the mistake and now its time, we do penance. I am talking about justice. How can justice be delivered, when we are illegally occupying their land. Look at the plight of the tribes. We are all colonisers here.

What do you think about autonomy for the Islands?
Whose autonomy are we talking about - settlers autonomy or tribals autonomy? Why are we discussing the strategic importance of these Islands? Whose development are we talking about? The Indian nation state has made a huge mistake. Andaman and Nicobar Islands does not belong to India literally. Technically and legally, it may belong to India. But, the real owners of these Islands are the tribes.

Is this a practical solution? Do you know that the Administration and GOI is thinking about peaceful co-existence of indigenous tribes and the settler population?
Practical or not. Controversial or not. This is the fact and I don't think we have any right over their land. Leave the Islands to UN and come and see the lives of the tribes after 100 years.

PAUPER’S LOG: The Bar City

The Bar City

By Abu Arsh

There are several names synonymous with cities across India. Kolkata prides itself for being 'City Of Joy', Jaipur is the 'Pink City', Bhubaneswar- 'City of Temples' and many others likewise. Port Blair, the capital city of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, once famous for being a land of pilgrimage, as it bore witness to the sufferings of our freedom fighters has become - The Bar City.
For an unsuspecting visitor to these islands landing at Veer Savarkar International Airport, route to his hotel is lined with innumerable bars either side i.e towards Aberdeen or towards Bathubasti. Bars have sprung up at every nook and corner of Port Blair. These water holes are not frequented by tourists but by our local drunkards' majority of whom are lower ranked govt. employees, daily wage earners, drivers and labourers etc. From the wee hours of the morning to late nights these alcoholics are seen hovering around the back door of bars. These groups of men called 'Bevda's' in the local lingo are habitual Ghoda Chaap (cheap liquor) drinkers; starting first thing in the morning.
Local bars supposedly becomes busy only from 11am to 11pm. Majority of these bars are owned by bootleggers and history sheeters who mysteriously get bar licenses without much of a fuss. The other majority of bar owners are contractors and govt. servants; running 'Benami' hotel units supplying free Black Dog and Johnny Walkers (expensive liquors) to officials for their frequent parties. A bhajan, an azaan or sermon can be heard from next doors in a bar, so are noises from school going children playing nearby during recess. In the name of air conditioner, a restaurant and toilet; these bars are humid, dusty, smelly and stinking places offering nothing much but adulterated booze. Smokers can smoke in public; in the name of food they serve crap from their name sake restaurants. The main counter in majority of these bars is meant for our Bevda's. They come, order a single or two shots of 90's, gulp it down in a single swipe and move out licking the complementary salt on offer. They would return after a couple of minutes at times with a sponsor and the same routine is repeated until they black out. Owing to non existent parking spaces in these bars our Bevda's after black outs end up parking themselves on the streets or in a bar neighbour's compound. Daaru parcels are also on offer either in pouches or a plastic bottle in various measures for people who don't want to hang around these fast service counters.
Alcoholism has touched new heights in these islands with liquor sale touching a whopping figure of Rs 80 crores last year and expected to reach Rs 100 crores this year. This is nothing to be buoyant about. What is known is that alcohol-related problems account for more than a fifth of hospital admissions; 18% of psychiatric emergencies; more than 20% of all brain injuries and 60% of all injuries reporting to India's emergency rooms. The role of alcohol in domestic violence is substantial: a third of violent husbands drink, according to a WHO study in 2004. Most of the violence took place during intoxication. There is evidence even to suggest that the poor are beginning to drink more than they earn-a deadly spiral of alcohol and debt. One recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) found that the average monthly expenditure on alcohol of patients with alcohol addiction is more than the average monthly salary.
Although the Indian constitution includes the prohibition of alcohol among its directive principles, alcohol policy is devolved to individual states-as is the levying of taxes on it. Moreover, there is a long history in India of a powerful alcohol lobby with industry figures influencing the political process, both in the form of party donations and as representatives. But experts argue that Indian society is losing considerably more than it gains. "Because of the political expediency surrounding prohibition, what is not being looked at is demand reduction strategies", says Vivek Benegal, one of the authors of the report and assistant professor of psychiatry at NIMHANS. Administration should be looking at this demand reduction strategy and stop state promotion of alcohol vide indiscriminately issuing bar licenses and selling liquor through its own ANIIDCO. We don't need a dubious distinction of being -The Bar City.

EDITORIAL: Setting Agendas

Setting Agendas

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.

Strategic Importance: A Historical Perspective

Strategic Importance: 
A Historical Perspective

A historical perspective on the strategic importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands presented by Prof. Francis Xavier, HOD, Dept of English, JNRM, which dwelt in depth the importance given to the Islands throughout history. Excerpts from the paper.

This 700 km long chain of 572 'islands, islets and rocks' is a Union Territory governed by the Center.  There is hardly any revenue earned from the Islands but still, the Government of India spends about 1000 Crores every year on these Islands.  The reasons are obvious.  The Islands form a long bulwark in the middle of the Bay of Bengal against any misadventure by an enemy country.  They are strategically located in an area traversed by ancient trade routes.  Ships of the various kingdoms of India plied regularly to countries in the east with merchandise and Indian culture. 
The Islands figure in one of the earliest maps of the known world prepared by Ptolemy…or Claudius  Ptolemaeus, the famous Egyptian astronomer, mathematician and geographer.  Ptolemy calls them by the name Agadaemon, a land of cannibals.   
The Islands find mention in the writings of I-Tsing the seventh century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, who seems to have visited both the Andamans and the Nicobars.  This clearly shows that a sea route linking China with India passed through the Islands even in those times.  As the trade route passed by the ancient kingdoms along the Sunda and Malacca Straits their rulers tried to participate in the trade and also exert their influence as the route passed through their territories. 
Sri Vijaya the 7th century Buddhist Kingdom of southern Sumatra controlled the Straits for a long time and levied tributes on the shipping that passed through.  Sri Vijaya's hegemony lasted till the 11th century when the Chola Kings of India attacked it repeatedly and established their own power over the trade routes. 
The Chola King Rajendra had inscriptions written in which he claims to have conquered the Nicobars, which he called as Nakkavaram or the land of the naked.
Marco Polo sailed past the Islands on his way to China from Venice. He called the Andamans 'Angamanian and the Nicobars as Necuverum and described the people as cannibals with faces like dogs. 
China's Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan sent a fleet to the Java Sea in 1293 to demand tribute from the Straits kingdoms.  This is again an indication of the growing strategic importance of the Islands that lay along the India-China trade route.

With the invention of instruments which can measure the longitude and latitude accurately traveling by sea became easier and less hazardous.  By the seventeenth century 'Hydrographers', whom we may today call surveyors of the sea, started sailing across the hitherto uncharted seas of the world, preparing excellent navigational charts and almanacs.  Their aim, ostensibly, was to make shipping safer, but there was a hidden motive also.  They wanted to find safe harbours and havens where the expanding fleets of the empire could assemble shelter and refit.  They could also control the busy shipping lanes, keep them free from pirates, and, perhaps, set out on a conquest.
Blair founded the settlement first at present day Port Blair and then shifted it to Chatham Island in North Andaman, which was named again as Port Cornwallis.  It was while the work on the settlement was in progress that the strategic location of the Islands was put to use for the first time.
The second time the strategic location of the Islands was put to use was during the First Anglo Burmese War (1824-1826).  Port Cornwallis became the rendezvous for assembling a fleet for the invasion of Burma.  The fleet carrying the army of Sir Archibald Campbell, a veteran of the Mysore Wars, to Rangoon assembled in the capacious harbour.  Thanks to this vantage point the British were able to carry the war into the enemy territory, which would have taken a long time via the land route. 
The arrival of the convict mutineers in 1858, after the First War of Independence of 1857, started a new chapter in the history of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. 
Soon the Nicobars were also annexed by the British and another penal colony came up on the island of Kamorta.  European and native troops were stationed at both places.  With the advent of steam the waters around the islands were patrolled more frequently by ships of the Royal Navy.  Using the Islands as a transit base they could extend their power over the Strait Settlements also.  Frequent incidents of piracy in the Nicobars were put down by the naval frigates.
However, with growing rivalry between England and Russia concern was voiced about the defenseless state of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in 1885 itself.  Col. Cadell, then Chief Commissioner and Superintendent of the settlement, in his confidential letter No. 119 dated Port Blair, the 23rd April 1885 wrote, " In view of the apparently not improbable eventuality of war with Russia I deem it my duty to bring the defenceless state of this settlement to the consideration of the Government of India. He felt that, "If no means are taken to protect the settlement, Port Blair might become a very convenient rendezvous for the enemy cruisers sent to prey on the commerce of the Bay of Bengal.  (This apprehension proved to be true a few years later when the German raider Emden attacked and sank many ships and shelled coastal towns and cities during the First World War. Her presence in the island waters has been recorded by its sighting by Rani Lachmi of Nancowry.)
Cadell goes on to say that the harbour should be protected by torpedoes and the garrison strengthened with more troops.  Going further he says, "Perhaps I shall not be considered as going beyond my province if I venture to express my opinion that Port Blair might be used as a very important strategical centre for the operations of our men of war."  He strongly lobbies for laying a telegraph cable between the Islands and Calcutta by saying that the squadron at Port Blair, " being in a centrical position could act in any direction on receipt of reliable news by wire, all ports around the Bay of course telegraphing their news daily to the Senior Naval Officer at Port Blair." (We may see that Cadell in his wisdom as a military strategist and veteran of the First War of Independence of 1857 has foreseen and planned what we were able to implement more than 100 years later!)
However, Cadell's proposal were struck down by the cost-conscious British Indian government of those days.  Replying his letter Mr A. Mackenzie, Secretary to the Government of India wrote that the "Governor General in Council, after reconsidering the question of the establishment of telegraphic communication with the settlement , is not prepared at the present time to incur the large expenditure which the construction and maintenance of the cable would involve."  But the question of the defence of the islands had been taken seriously and the Inspector General of Military Works was asked to "depute an officer of experience to visit Port Blair for the purpose of preparing a full report of the means that should be adopted , and the probable cost that should be involved in placing that port in a fair state of defensive security." (Letter No. 479, MW., dated Simla the 21st May 1885.)
The strategic location of the Andamans was put to maximum use by the Japanese, when they invaded the Islands.  They built solid coastal defences and laid roads.  A chain of pillboxes and bunkers, many of them still in pristine condition, rings Port Blair and surrounding areas.  Huge naval guns removed from Singapore were mounted at strategic locations on the coast. 
Anti aircraft defences were mounted around vital installations.  Bunkering and supply facilities for ships and submarines were provided.  The aim was to use the Islands, as the British did during the First Anglo-Burmese War, as a springboard for an invasion of mainland India via Burma. The Japanese almost succeeded in their objective, reaching up to Nagaland but with heavy attrition on both sides.  
It is clear that the Islands are poised to play a major role in India's 'Look East Policy' because of their strategic location.  In the times ahead the Islands are destined to serve as a key hub for implementing our foreign policy towards our South East Asian neighbours.  The future of the Islands is bright and full of hope and their name "Islands of Good Fortune" as mentioned in ancient maps may come true.

Illegal Migrants Pose Security Threat

Illegal Migrants Pose Security Threat

One of the major issues the seminar addressed was the illegal influx of population in the Islands. Speaking at the seminar RVR Murthy, Asst Professor, JNRM said that Illegal migration poses major security threat to the Islands. Excerpts from the paper.

In a paper submitted in the seminar, he said that Andaman and Nicobar islands face greatest challenges today on security front due to large scale illegal immigration from littoral states of Bay of Bengal. In recent years several such attempts aggravate the security of the islands; particularly the aboriginals are the victims of such attempts and they live in constant terror of heavily armed poachers from Myanmar (Burma). The geo-strategic positioning, neighborhood factor, historical experience, long maritime boundaries, etc., makes the islands highly vulnerable to external threats. These externally sponsored security threats for long posed serious problems, both in terms of determinable losses to life and property and more importantly non-quantifiable losses to national will and drain on scarce economic resources.  
In recent years 412 Bangladeshi illegal migrants (Rohingyas) left Chittgong by six mechanized boat to enter illegally into Malaysia. But these boats were intercepted and detained by Thai Navy in high seas for about four weeks for preliminary investigation.  Subsequently, these illegal migrants were transferred to a non-mechanized boat with some bags of rice and released in the high seas off Thailand coast. 102 persons of Bangladeshi and Myanmar nationals after 12 days reached Little Andaman coast.  How to deal with hundreds of these illegal migrants is a question to which there are no easy answers, particularly if political parties support and provide asylum for consolidating vote bank.   
The major challenge for the A&N Islands is to check illegal immigration. The immigrants are mainly shipped from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. While the demographic characteristics of these islands make it easy for these 'outsiders' to merge with the local populace in the short period, it eventually leads to socio-economic tensions, criminal activity and polarization of society on communal lines. There are also apprehensions of the ISI and China infiltrating these groups for subversive activities, says the paper.
Demographic invasion from Bangladesh, has assumed serious security dimension. In many of the Bengali settler areas it has brought about a total demographic transformation, forcing the original inhabitants to leave their resources to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Only massive drive by local authorities can check this unwanted influx.  This ceaseless increase of population through infiltration and other means assumes a new dimension when it slowly and steadily takes the shape of demographic invasion.  The consequent socio-political disturbances can possibly destabilize the entire Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The major role of defence forces stationed in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to protect the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a vast area of 5,95,217 sq.kms, roughly 30% of total EEZ of the country. There are two basic types of poaching activities prevailing in the region i.e., Poachers from neighboring countries venture into Andaman sea in small boats to the coast for collecting sea-cucumbers, timber, and fishing and crocodile hunting. Secondly, poaching by modern mechanized trawlers of littoral countries was actively involved in drug smugglers and gun runners. Every year poaching activities by foreign poachers usually starts from the first week of June.
The A&N Islands have been attracting foreign vessels that illegally fish in its waters, particularly those from the neighbouring Southeast Asian littorals. The 'fetch' from these waters, which abound in varied species of seafood and other marine organisms, is sold back home at very high prices. The easy availability of hi-tech nautical equipment in these countries (radar, refrigeration plants and GPS) miniaturized for small boats, facilitates evasion, endurance and precise navigation. Poaching by foreign fishermen, if unchecked, could lead to depletion of fish stock and ecological imbalance, besides their attendant security implications. Such a threat from non-state actors pose a daunting challenge - if such activities are not interdicted at sea, it would become extremely difficult to take corrective measures.
The entry of foreign poachers in the Tribal Reserve is major concern and there is strong discontent among Tribal population of southern part of Nicobar Islands. Poachers from littoral countries often visit these remote islands to exploit resources meant for tribals and such contact in the past has often been devastating epidemic disease and sometimes violent conflict with unsympathetic poachers conducting illegal timbering operations. The invasion on their land by poachers from outside and inside poses a serious threat to Primitive tribes, depleting wild foods on which the tribes are totally dependent. Entry to the Tribal reserve by outsiders is illegal. This tragedy must surely galvanize the Andaman administration to act to keep illegal immigrants  off the tribal land.  An official estimate in the year 2003 reveals that 50,000 foreigners are taken illegal shelter in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Indeed the unofficial figures are much higher than this. A large number of them were Bangladeshis.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands has immense strategic value and it could be used as a springboard for engagement of the eastern neighbourhood i.e., ASEAN.  This would also facilitate building political trust and reinforcing economic ties. Diplomacy and confidence-building would foster security bonds with the maritime neighbours to jointly combat common threats including illegal immigration emanates from littoral countries.

Pondicherry Model Assembly for ANI: Dr R N Rath


Pondicherry Model Assembly for ANI: Dr R N Rath

A voice for Assembly came from Dr R N Rath, who said that the need for state autonomy will definitely give greater participation for the people and lead to prosperity which is inevitable. The most accurate model for Andaman and Nicobar will be the Pondicherry Model. Regarding the financial crunch he suggested that the solution will be like that of Mizoram, Manipur and Arunanchal Pradesh. The tribals of Nicobar may be induced to follow the same procedure like MP election for MLA election in their area without compromising the detribalization aspect. Above all, he stressed that there should not be any laxity on security or strategic importance. As the topic of the conference is poised with three critical angles such as strategic importance, political autonomy and sustainable development , much mind blowing debate discussions and acceptance of past experiences should be taken in to considerations before reaching a concrete conclusion for complete autonomy, now or after or never.

Elected Channel and Selected Channel


Elected Channel and Selected Channel

Basudev Dass, media personality and Govindram, Asst Comm. Tribal Welfare jointly presented a paper on Political State of Affairs vis-à-vis Political Autonomy for the Islands and strongly advocated for a territorial Council (Pradesh Council) and a separate civil service cadre - Andaman Nicobar Islands Civil Service. Excerpts from the paper.

The 'real' political representation alone can result the required change in a democratic country. We have the set-up which is malfunctioning, The Zilla Parishads blame of not being provided with needed fund. The departments transferred are either coming back to the administration or are of no delivery. The institutions are not interested to solve any other problem other than problems related to construction for obvious reason. The leaders lack the vision of an overall development of the islands and islanders. They are sleeping, closing their eyes pretending to sleep.  To a great extent they are really in deep slumber so far as the future of the islands and islanders are concerned.  In fact at present, there exist no political strength which can claim of doing well to their voters and fighting for the cause of the islanders as a whole.
At this juncture and proven political immaturity of the larger chunk of the leaders, it will be another blunder to offer an Assembly as vehemently demanded by many political as well as non-political groups. With the Centre fulfilling all the financial needs of the islands, the contractor-politicians will not be able to realize the hope and aspiration of the common people, the people need to remember.
We had committed a blunder by scrapping the 'Pradesh Council' system where both, the politicians and bureaucrats were answerable and accountable in an Open House. Though advisory in nature, the politically elected members and Counsellors exhibited their zeal to serve the people as people had a forum available to them to question their representatives.  Had the system been allowed to continue, the leaders would have become matured enough by now to ask for an Assembly and handle the needs of the islands and the islanders in a better way if not the best.
It is not that an error cannot be set right. A Pradesh Council or some analogous Institution is a correct answer with certain more powers and autonomy to the members and the Counsellors at this juncture.  The planning and execution should go to them while the financial portion should be dealt jointly by the bureaucrats and the Institution. The representatives of the people need to be given more political autonomy with much financial restrictions.
It is they who would then decide the requirements of the people and plan from and for the grass-roots and not the bureaucrats in and from the parlors of Delhi on the skeletol inputs of the Port Blair Secretariat.   A separate Civil Service cadre for Andaman and Nicobar Islands is also the need of the hour. This will pave the way for both, the elected representatives and selected bureaucrats of the place who certainly have their attachment with the islands and the islanders to manage and deliver to the cause of the people of the islands.
The Ex MP Mr. Manoranjan Bhakta is right in his apprehension that 'if the genuine demands of the people are neglected in such a manner and people are harassed day in and day out, it will not be far away when the people will follow the same modus operandi as done in North-Eastern states. It is time to accept the reality of fact and respond to that'.

ANI Still Not Familiar in New Delhi: LG


ANI Still Not Familiar in New Delhi: LG

By Zubair Ahmed

Andaman and Nicobar Islands still does not ring bell in New Delhi. The Islands is still confused with Lakshadweep and Delhiwallas are unfamiliar with the Islands, candidly admitted Lieutenant Governor, Bhopinder Singh, inaugurating the two-day UGC sponsored seminar on Strategic Importance, Political Autonomy and Sustainable Development of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, organized by the Department of Political Science, JNRM. Benchmarking the Islands with other Island nations and archipelagos, he said that despite various constraints and challenges, Andaman and Nicobar Islands is much resourceful than other similar places.

Despite limited availability of revenue land, he said that developmental activities in different sectors are taking place, which will bring prosperity and generate employment opportunities. He said that a roadmap for development needs to be prepared with meticulous planning and time-bound implementation to achieve the aspirations of the Islanders.
Commenting on the recent Chinese adventurism, he said that our country even though does not harbor aggressive designs against others, with the Islands playing a major role, India can become a major global player. He also stressed that economic development and defence preparedness has to go hand in hand.
For sustainable development of the Islands, he said that the while formulating policies, the Administration will keep in view the aspirations of local people, environmental protection and rights of the indigenous tribes. He also said that a study is going on how to merge the indigenous tribes with the mainstream like the Nicobaris. He also stressed upon developing an effective communication system with mainland and within the Islands.
The Island needs to be made self dependent by formulating short term and long term vision. Although the Islands are totally dependent on Central Government for all its needs, he said that sectors like tourism, fisheries, Small Scale Industries, Information Technology, construction of major infrastructure like Sea Ports, Air Ports etc. if exploited to their fullest potential would not only generate revenue for the Islands but also create employment opportunities.
On political autonomy and the idea of statehood for the Islands he said that the Islands presently have elected representative, tribal council as well as Panchayati Raj Institutions. He also said that various factors such as the total population including tribals and other factors like security and economic sustainability would be taken into consideration by the Government before a decision is taken for the creation of a State Assembly.
Shakti Sinha, Chief Secretary in his keynote address said that although the Islands are located strategically, developmental activities are negatively affected due to its location. He also said that agriculture and manufacturing industries cannot be the mainstay of the Island economy; we need to think out of the box. He emphatically said that nature and people are the two tremendous resource bases of the Islands.
Delving deeply about Administration's various projects he said that Coconut Mission in Car Nicobar has been a grand success and it commands high value in international market due to its organic quality. On fisheries, he said that coastal fisheries in the Islands are still under developed and if Tuna Mission and deep sea fishing takes off, it would be a quantum leap creating economic prosperity and employment opportunities for local people. He said that forestry operations have been affected due to the Supreme Court order.
On the employment scenario, he said that the Island needs skilled manpower and the Skill Development Mission(SDM) has been implemented and about 2000 plus people are employed every year. He further added that with the laying of submarine optic cable, connectivity will improve and sectors such as IT, IT enabled services (ITES), E-governance, Health and Education will get a major boost.
The development of the Trans-shipment Port at Campbell Bay, will cater to both eastern parts of the India and littoral countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Shakti Sinha said that there are 69 panchayats and about Rs 105 crores has been given as Grant-in-Aid last year with each Panchayat getting more than a crore rupees, which nowhere in India, any panchayat gets. On political autonomy he said that it has to be looked in a larger perspective. He also admitted that in Delhi, nobody understands the Islands. However, there is no dearth of funds as Centre is an open cheque for ANI.
Dr. R. N. Rath, HOD, Political Science in his brief address said that this is the first National Conference by UGC on such relevant issues pertaining to the security, progress and development of the Islands being organized in JNRM. He also said that the seminar will deliberate on developmental aspect, ecological balance and political autonomy of the Islands. He said that there is a genuine demand for a legislative assembly, but taking the quantum of economical sustainability, it should be given enough thought before reaching a conclusion.
The two-day seminar was co-sponsored by NABARD, NATMO and NYK.
Earlier, the Principal, JNRM, Dr. Iqbal Ahmad welcomed the gathering, while the inaugural function concluded with the vote of thanks proposed by Dr. S.K. Biswas, Organising Secretary.