Tuesday, December 13, 2011




Intelligent Interaction

It is really excellent and wonderful that the Chief Secretary himself interacted with the students. I can imagine from the nature of question posed by students that now students of Andamans are fully exposed to the day to day problems of the world. I liked the comments of CS wherein he has described as to how Port Blair was, three decades back. Regarding the brain-drain question, what the CS said is correct. I was perhaps the first boy to qualify any of the UPSC's competitive examination in 1983 and join Central Secretariat Service. We have now an IAS officer from Andamans too. There are still few more in senior position in Delhi. A&N Administration can always requisition services of those officers who are willing. On our part wherever we get a chance to deal any case of Andamans, we always do it in a positive manner because we are from there.
Dr.Vincent Barla

Abolish Octroi

Many Governments have abolished Octroi in Municipal Councils since the ongoing tussle between the industries and the municipal corporations states in India have either done away with or are into the stages of phasing out Octroi.
 It seems to echo the thought that Octroi must be abolished due to its various ill effects including the final distribution price. It is thus imperative to find alternative sources for funding the municipalities. The Octroi system, it is often termed to be 'obnoxious' 'vexatious' 'wasteful' and 'distorting'. The abolition of Octroi will not only help to attain economies on logistics and warehousing but will also make it a unified market. Octroi should be eliminated in phases.
Abolition of Octroi might result in some initial losses; it will be beneficial in the long run. These will not only ease inter state trade and generate more revenue but also impart some degree of uniformity to the tax system. Octroi will further burden the poor people, and make a deep hole in their pockets, as the cost of living in Andaman is too high, with double digit inflation and due to transportation of commodities from mainland like sugar, edible oil, soaps, plastic goods, leather, textiles and ferrous metals. There is apprehension among traders that unscrupulous elements will import cheap quality goods. The city will suffer as consumers will get poor quality commodities. Port Blair Municipal Council should impose tax only for petroleum products, tobacco, liquor and vehicles and should exempt Octroi for other products, PBMC should amend the regulation, I feel the Andaman chamber of commerce and the MP should take up the matter in the interest of the islanders and abolish Octroi. Even the Prime Minister of India has asked to abolish Octroi in the recent past. Some of the alternative sources which can be looked at in order to raise revenues for the municipalities include: Issuance of Municipal Bonds, Creation of a Municipal Development Fund, Tax on Vacant Land, Imposition of Pollution Tax.
Dr. Dinesh
Golghar, Port Blair

Farmers Duped

KVK-CARI is really doing for the skill up gradation of Islander farmers, but at the same time it was observed that agriculture department perception is not based on the facts. During Tsunami rehabilitation program, I had observed that the farmers who had no need for power tillers they got the power tiller.  In some places the Agriculture Department just dumped the organic manure without taking farmers into confidence. The efforts of Government regarding agriculture development will be futile if farmers are not placed in the center of the planning.

Sharad Pant

PAUPER’S LOG: Game Changers


Game Changers

By Abu Arsh

All over the world people with special set of skills, intelligence and knowledge have contributed for betterment of the inhabitants of this world. Irrespective of our diverse identities, cultures and languages we have all stood in awe of the great ideas floated by these individuals. Majority of us have always felt why we didn't think about those ideas and concepts before it was presented by future thinkers or great talismans. A simple Swiss knife to the super computers, a fountain pen to outer space station, from micro credit to core banking, from small ghetto based movements to major uprisings, from radio to internet, non-cooperation movement to community service and a lot more. Game changers have served humanity well and would do so till eternity.
Concepts and ideas are galore in this world. There's another category of great game changers who ape the real men, only difference being self before the followers. These people are the masters of a fool's paradise and give us a dream of being in a Potemkin village. People are given a rosy picture of a future where everything will be perfect to the T. Our messiahs become cult figures and we with high hopes and aspirations become ardent followers. They come up with promises, noble concepts for our betterment and are ever ready to fight for our rights. Followers are made to believe the messiahs are dedicated to our cause more than their very own personal lives.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an ideal destination of these conmen. Rule of people is on paper. Unconcerned and detached officers call the shots. Semblance of democracy is not there. Facilities are wanting. Voices are stifled. 'Sab chatla hai' is the mantra till the day it happens to one of us, when we look for non existent support from our fellow brethren. Natwarlal's and Bunty's are found in every street corner waiting to raise their pitches on our predicament. In a flash we become great followers of them. As the numbers of disgruntled followers rise, so does the stature and bargaining power of our messiahs.
The year 2004 has been a landmark year in this regard and no. of messiahs has quadrupled since then. Some of them have duped us with Tsunami assistance and sold our misfortune to amass personal wealth and acclaim both national and international before disappearing into thin air. Search the internet and find them being global ambassadors of peace, great innovators and ideal world citizens rubbing shoulders with the elite of this world. Ask a common hawker, a petty trader or a small time contractor; the outstanding dues these greats owe them. Ask the followers of these greats about the movement and missions they started and how it fizzled out.
Conmen are still around with their bagful of tricks dividing communities on religious, caste and language lines. Self promotion is their hall mark. They are masters of disguise and would conceal their undoing in a swipe of a few sweet words. Meetings and symposiums are organized to weed out corruption, provide a level playing field, enhance our skills, create avenues for self employment, assure our livelihood, give our kids a better education, provide us the basic amenities and fight for our rights. We the people have failed to realize that being a pawn in the hands of these brokers will not solve any of our problems but rather compound it. It's futile to be in awe of any individual whose sole purpose is to be a news maker and procure recognition at the cost of the oppressed. The more vigilant and vocal we are, the more we are safe from the clutches of these game changers. Each individual is capable of fighting for his rights if he is on a righteous path and his demands are genuine. Like minded individuals will follow and join them in their crusade. Our society had these traits in the past and these would be rekindled in no time provided we have the zeal and confidence to fight for our rights. Service to community cannot be a vocation but a mission. Missions become great movements and have overthrown big empires, history bears testimony to it. Lets become game changers rather than followers of conmen.

EDITORIAL Why We Need Statehood

Why We Need Statehood

The private question of the MP in the Parliament and the resolution of Congress party in its 7th Political Conference have set to mood for a Legislative setup for the Islands which needs backing from all political parties and civil society organisations. As statehood is a common demand, all parties should come together on common platform and demand it vociferously. Statehood with any kind of political and democratic setup will only make our Islands detectable and visible on national radar.
Most of the reports and studies on various social, educational, cultural and economic sectors done in India do not feature this Union Territory as if there are no lives or there are no issues in all these sectors here. Whether it is the CAG Report, Human Development Index Report or Inequality Adjusted HDI, or even studies on quality of education or healthcare delivery, we are out of focus in all the national level surveys and studies.
Recently in an interaction with college students, the Chief Secretary did say that there are representative democratic institutions like PRI in the Islands. However, their role in policy making is diminutive in nature.
Comparing the present bureaucratic setup with the current breed of politicians of the Islands is also not a very impressive argument. We should be aware of our strengths and weaknesses. And, also about the settler society in these Islands that they do not have a long and illustrious history compared to other states in the mainland. That does not mean we cannot start now. The time to start anything new is now. The experiment will face many hiccups. Politicians will learn, people and bureaucrats too.
Till 2008 people were wary of the demand for assembly for the Islands. They thought it to be a ploy of the politicians in general and Manoranjan Bhakta in particular for self aggrandizement and a craving for more power and pelf. The public thought the bureaucratic system could still deliver with a little tinkering here and there. But slowly the public opinion is veering around assembly and power-to-the-people as the feeling that, the present system is beyond redemption, has been gaining ground fast.
Maybe, the first two terms would be utter chaos after the UT gets assembly. But since the system has hit the nadir, there is not much to lose. Former CS Chering Targey in an interview had once said that there is no substitute to a democratic set up. People's aspirations grow with the rise in prosperity. The present system has proved incapable of meeting those aspirations. Some kind of a democratic set up would shift the decision making process from Delhi to Port Blair. The PRI, Zilla Parishad or the Municipality do not have the mandate to discharge those duties. An alternate is inevitable.
Another argument that the population is too small and the strategic importance of the islands will be compromised does not stand any ground. The size of the population should be no constraint. When statehood was given to North-Eastern states, they did not have very large population. Indian Armed Forces are in a different league altogether. The type of administration would be no impediment in their activities, it isn't anywhere in the country.
Foremost, we can't question the wisdom of the people in a democracy. It's for all of us; to create awareness; educate the common people to elect the right persons to lead them. And the chaos and the mayhem, yes, initially, there might be a churning, a little turbulence but things can't go downhill.
One should not give up hope. That would be blasphemy. We all live on hope; hope for a better tomorrow. Instead of indulging in self-pity, let us work for a better tomorrow, take things in our own hands; work for achieving our democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution of India, have our own government, our own people at the helm of affairs to shape our destiny.

Stop Issuing Bar Licenses: BJP

Stop Issuing Bar Licenses: BJP

The Mahila Morcha of Bharatiya Janata Party has sent a letter to the Lieutenant Governor protesting indiscriminate issuance of bar licences in the Islands.
Anusia Devi, State President, Mahila Morcha wrote to the the Lt Governor, The Chief Secretary and the Dy Commissioner (SA), wherein she has stated that very often the people of these Islands go through the news of accidents due to alcoholism. People, especially the married womenfolk are the sufferers with many families becoming destitute and losing happiness when their earning members or any other member becomes alcoholic. Local woman and media like Echo of India, Andaman Sheekha, Andaman Chronicle and The Light of Andamans etc have already raised this issue but the Administration is still going on issuing fresh bar licenses. This will not be out of point to mention here that the local media have written that these Islands may be called a bar city and the Party join hands with all such media personnel and affected families of these islands who are against alcoholism in these Islands.
As per the information, about 30 to 35% of all mortalities in GB Pant Hospital are due to alcohol consumption and its complications and about 50% of all mortalities in these Islands are due to alcohol. Some Bars running in residential and market areas also affect the residents of the area and people visiting market places. Very recently a local news paper had brought the uneasiness of the public in the market place, on its front page. In many cases, the women folk are disturbed and unable to come out of their houses. There is no check on either issuing licenses or renewals and as a result, bars are mushrooming in every nook and corner of the Islands.
To save the valuable lives, earnings of poor people, peaceful life and security to women and children folks the Party demands to stop issuing of any further bar licenses. The Party at the same time demands that renewal of bar license may be stopped except in the case of star hotels and that too with fixing limit of alcohol to be served to the consumers. Anusia Devi concludes that now the Administration should think whether it wants to make these Islands as Bar Cities and a Union Territory of high mortality due to alcoholism or wants to make it healthy, wealthy and beautiful Islands as it was earlier. R Mohan, State President, while approving the letter of complaint and demand signed by Anusia Devi, has told that this demand will annoy many bureaucrats and to satisfy the vested interests of such bureaucrats, no political parties has come forward with the aforesaid demand so far. But in the interest of the people of these isles and also to give the islands a free and fair society, the Party has taken this strong step. The release also asserts that BJP is not working here only to issue condolences, declaring it a self-made number one political party of A&N Islands. It also said that the party will never force any body to attend their meetings and dharnas.

COVER STORY: Disaster Management: Not on Disaster-Mode



Disaster Management: Not on Disaster-Mode

Even after seven years of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, the pace of the Directorate of Disaster Management is ordinary with obstacles at every turn, and is supposed to switch to disaster-mode in the event of a calamity. Equipped with an excellent Disaster Management Plan, the Directorate is facing severe resource crunch - man, material and machinery.

By Zubair Ahmed

The year 2004 and the month December will remain etched in the memory of the Islanders for centuries to come. A disaster of that magnitude was beyond their apprehension. They are quite often told that the Islands learnt a very different and unusual lesson from that experience, which nobody would like to experience once again to learn from it. They learnt what a tsunami is. They also learnt what disaster mismanagement is and how and why not to be complacent and placid in disaster preparedness.
When that massive earthquake and the gigantic tsunami waves hit the islands on December 26, 2004, every individual responsible to act in the crisis was at his wits end; right from the Assistant Commissioner in Campbell Bay to the Chief Secretary in Port Blair. The Administration was in a state of paralysis till afternoon. Nobody can blame anybody as the event was unprecedented one and nobody had a clue how to react or respond to it.
That was seven years ago. In the meantime, a very large body of work has been done and huge sums of money spent on Disaster Mitigation, Relief and Rehabilitation. After a good four years, in 2008 under Disaster Management Act 2005, the Administration formed a separate Directorate.

Unfortunately, even after three years of its formation, the Directorate is still on life support gasping for resources - it seriously lacks man, machinery and materials. The Administration expects all line departments to shift into disaster mode in case of any eventuality, when the process of equipping the Directorate is still in babudom-mode. Privately everybody agrees that in the event of a disaster of half the intensity of 2004, the Disaster Management Authorities would be caught napping again. The core issue is that red-tapism and the usual bureaucratic snares are pulling back the process of setting up a fool-proof Directorate on fast track mode. Lest we forget that disasters never wait for us to get prepared at our own convenience.
The Directorate is headed by Ashok Kumar Sharma, in a diverted capacity from Industries Department. All of his lieutenants are also on deputation from various departments. The proposal for 128 posts has been clipped by MHA with only 36 core posts approved, which is yet to materialize. All the staffs manning the control room are presently on contract, a very unreliable and disastrous proposition. Training and equipping the contract staff might not be of much assistance to the directorate.
The basic communication network connecting the 35 dispersed Islands is not in place. In worst case scenario the land based communication network like telephone and mobile services fail. Even if the mobile communication works, the landline fails. Mobile service is jammed due to congestion. The procurement of satellite communication equipments is still under process. Procuring and usage of latest communication devices needs prompt approval from various agencies. 'We are unable to use Iridium network and will have to rely on the old Inmarsat," informed an official.
The Directorate doesn't have vehicles of their own. A few scrapped jeeps abandoned by NGOs are being used by the Directorate. "There is a ban on vehicle procurement, but we will pursue the matter seriously," Abraham Varickamakkal, Secretary, RR had said during an interaction at DDM conference hall.
There is lack of sufficient data about the vulnerable coastal areas prone to tsunami, which requires digital alleviation modeling with one-metre contour survey. Central government departments like Geological Survey of India too do not have the latest data with them. The Directorate is trying to get support from Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The mandate of the Directorate is capacity building, training and creating awareness with emphasis on preparedness. Every department should have their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) ready. It is learnt that most of the departments have already prepared the SOPs. The installations of warning system, sirens lie with the Police department. It costs about Rs 23 Lakhs and each siren will cover an area of 2.5 km radius. About 300 sirens have to be installed. The matter is still under process. There is a siren installed in the secretariat that works during drills but fails in case of real earthquake. It is audible only to the staff in secretariat.
The pace of work is not different from any other department. However, it is expected that the whole system switches to disaster-mode in case of any disaster.
In the meantime, the Directorate within its limited resources has been successful in putting together a comprehensive Disaster Management Plan, in the absence of which the response in any eventuality would be ad-hoc and tentative leading to over emphasis on some actions and absence of other critical actions. The promising document has been validated and sent for final approval. Many suggestions from the main supporting agencies - APWD, ANC and Police were brought to the notice to be incorporated in the final document.
The snail pace of our preparedness cannot be blamed on the Administration alone. MHA too plays a major part. In the last seven years the subject was treated like a burden thrust upon the state. To everyone involved it was a subject to be handled in addition to his own duties. Obviously it got a casual and routine treatment.  However, in a meeting held for validation and finalization of the Disaster Management Plan, the representation of the line departments was quite encouraging.
"The support from other departments was not much in the beginning and it was not very easy to shift their focus from their routine job to disaster preparedness mode," said Ashok Kumar Sharma, Director, DDM. "But now after continuous persuasion, the departments are taking things seriously and most of them were actively involved in putting together the Disaster Management Plan," he added.
Three statutory bodies are formed at different levels for proper planning and coordination of Disaster Management. A&N UT Disaster Management Authority (ANUTDMA) is headed by the Lt Governor, which has the MP also as a member. Earlier, there was no representation by the public representative in the core group. The UT Disaster Management Executive Committee (UTDMEC) has the Chief Secretary on top. In every district, District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) with the Deputy Commissioner as the Chairperson and Adhyaksha, Zilla Parishad as Co-Chairperson has been formed. However, like every activity at district level, once again the revenue staff will be at the helm of the affairs at grass-root level.
Another grey area, where the focus is yet to reach is identification of vulnerable installations like LPG Plant and Dams. LPG, as it comes under chemical disaster, it has to be dealt by the Dept of Environment and Forests. How much the department is prepared is anybody's guess.
Disaster preparedness is not a subject, to be dealt in the most lethargic way. It needs speedy, efficient and prompt action. Although, a document is ready, it's more important that the contents percolate to the lowest level and a target date is set. The awareness programmes in all panchayats and other PRIs should be timebound. The Islands should be able to achieve complete disaster awareness within the timeframe set. Or, we will be learning another hard lesson in case of a disaster.

Take to the Streets for Common Man: Shakil Ahmed Urges Congressmen


Take to the Streets for Common Man: Shakil Ahmed Urges Congressmen

By Staff Reporter

Sonia Gandhi has called upon party men in Congress-ruled states to raise their voices for basic issues of the common man like they do in opposition-ruled states and take to the streets if need be," urged Shakil Ahmed, General Secretary, AICC to the gathering at the 7th Political Conference of Pradesh Congress Committee held at ITF Ground on 11th December. He made scathing attack on the opposition BJP for its divisive politics and on the Anna Hazare Movement as being sponsored by the RSS. He was equally critical of Baba Ramdev for his ties with BJP. He warned his party men to be wary of the rumours being percolated by the fundamentalist forces and concentrate on propagating the various welfare measures adopted by the UPA government. Dr. Shakeel Ahmed, member CWC and General Secretary, AICC was the Chief Guest.
The Seventh Political Conference of Pradesh Congress Committee, also passed three resolutions - organizational matters, political and economic.
In the political resolution, the party demanded a Legislative Assembly for the Islands on the lines of Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry. The party felt it very unfortunate that all the decisions are taken by one man. The resolution said that with the abolition of Pradesh Parishad, an advisory body, all doors for a democratic setup in these Islands had been closed. It also demanded one nominated seat in Rajya Sabha for the Islands.
The Conference resolved to strengthen the party by enrolling new members and improving the relationship of party workers with PRIs and by adhering to the policies of the party. The conference demanded to fill the vacant posts without delay to cope up with the problem of educated unemployment among the youth. In its economic resolution, it demanded a separate shipping corporation for the Islands and a full fledged ship repairing dockyard. It asked the government for creation of separate UT cadre in Civil Service and Police Service for the Islands. It demanded upward revision of minimum wages of MGNREGA. The resolution also sought extension of Inland Vessel Water Limits in ANI. Regularisation of services of all government servants requiring UPSC clearance was also raised by the party.
Speaking on the occasion the chief guest spoke on length about the strategy of his party with regards to Andaman & Nicobar Islands. He spelled out the message of Sonia Gandhi, President AICC and congratulated the Pradesh Congress Committee for organizing the conference. He shared his experiences in his capacity as MoS (Communications) during his last visit immediately after the Tsunami along with Sriprakash Jaiswal, MoS (Home) and Mukul Vasnik for restoration of communication network and participating in the relief works on the instruction of the Prime minister. He appreciated the large turn out of supporters of the Party especially the women members and said - 'According to Sonia Gandhi, no organisation can be strong without the active participation of women members in it". Addressing the issues raised by the local level leaders in the political, economic and organizational resolution adopted in the conference, he assured them of taking it up in the meeting scheduled later in the evening with the Lt. Governor and with concerned ministries on his return to Delhi.
In his address R.C. Khuntia, Secretary, AICC, the guest of honour, spoke on length about various issues raised in the resolutions adopted in the conference. He said that the party workers should work united for securing the Lok Sabha seat in the next general elections and then the party will work towards realizing the dream of a legislative assembly for the islands.
Kuldeep Rai Sharma, President, Pradesh Congress Committee welcoming the dignitaries spelt out the grievances plaguing the common Islanders. He stressed on the need for a Legislative Assembly on the lines of Puducherry or Arunachal Pradesh. He further spoke on the immediate release of relief package for the Tsunami-affected farmers of South Andaman, status of Ranchi community, unemployment issues and setting up of IT industry, increase in quota of MBBS seats, encroachment regularization, better connectivity, status of Tribal Council, mainstreaming of the indigenous tribe and several other issues. He requested the Chief Guest to take up these issues with the Central Ministries. He gave a detailed account of the success of the Congress party in going alone in the local bodies' elections this time and securing the Zilla Parishad of South as well as North & Middle Andaman along with the Port Blair Municipal Council from opposition rule.    
Mohammed Ali, General Secretary, PCC secretary spoke on the present political scenario of the Islands. Condolence resolution was presented by senior leader V.Giri followed by one minute silence for all the departed leaders of Party since the last political conference. Economic Resolution was presented by Paritosh Halder, Vice President, PCC. Political Resolution was presented by M.Z. Siddique, General Secretary, PCC. Organisational Matters Resolution was presented by Ranglal Halder, President, District Congress Committee, N&M Andamans District.
The conference commenced with a torch rally flagged off by the Chief Guest from the National Memorial Cellular Jail at 9.30 am. A condolence ceremony was held at the premises of ITF ground where floral tributes were paid to the departed senior leaders and pioneers of the Congress Party. The Congress party flag was hoisted at the venue and guard of honour was given to the Chief Guest by the volunteers of Congress Seva Dal. Prizes were distributed to winners of Rajiv Gandhi Football memorial tournament organized by Block Congress committee, Ferrargunj by the chief guest. A souvenir was also released on the occasion. Vote of thanks was proposed by P.Prasad, Adhyaksh, Zilla Parishad, N&M Andaman District.

Discourses on Island History

 Discourses on Island History

A colloquium on Island history by researchers from abroad and Islands brings forth various aspects of the history of the colonial and contemporary Andamans.

By Staff Reporter

In a colloquium on Andaman history organised at National Memorial Cellular Jail on 9th December, historians and academicians from United Kingdom, Germany and ANI working on different aspects presented a wide perspective of their study.
Speaking on the occasion, Prof Claire Anderson, University of Leicester, UK who has been a frequent visitor to these Islands informed the small gathering about her work on the Anglo Indians of the Islands. She has been working on the history, anthropology of the Islands and sociological insights. She said that her study divides the Anglo Indian into three categories - Anglo Indian Convicts, Developmental Schemes and post independence era. She observed that this community were very important for the success of British colony in the Islands. In 1858, Eurasians came from Calcutta and Madras on tickets of leave to work with different skills. They were also employed as overseers. Many of them remained in the Islands and worked here for more than 20 years. Her work took her to various archives throughout the world - Amsterdam, Manila and Ceylon. She said that there was close mixing of the British and the Anglo Indians in the Islands and the composition of Anglo Indians and British during the penal settlement was matter of interest. There were about 71 Anglo Indians and about 240 Europeans in the Settlement.
Prof Claire Anderson's present study is about the integrated histories of Andaman Islands. It aims to bring into focus the story of the complex multi-cultural society encompassed within its territorial bounds. Situated along the sea routes to Southeast Asia, the Islands have long attracted a whole range of people including traders, pirates, colonizers, and settlers from various parts of India, Burma, and Malaysia. The British settled the Islands permanently as a penal colony in 1858, displacing their indigenous peoples to devastating effect, and transported tens of thousands of convicts there through to the 1920s. They worked on a range of developmental projects. The British also shipped so-called 'criminal tribes' , other forced migrants, and anti-colonial 'rebels' to the Islands, and employed them in various 'rehabilitation' schemes and in forest labour. Although the Islands acquired notoriety under the British colonial regime, the stigma attached to them perhaps wore off sooner than expected. In the aftermath of Indian Independence and Partition, refugees fleeing the communal violence that broke out in the subcontinent readily agreed to be rehabilitated into a region they had hitherto feared. Indeed, they came to make their homes in a place they perceived to be free of the social hierarchies, prejudices, and conflicts of mainland India. This project seeks to bring together the investigators' previous research - on indigenous peoples (known locally as 'tribals'), Indian convicts, and Bengali refugees - with a new series of historical studies of the lives and experiences of convict descendents (known as 'local-born') and three groups of forced migrant settlers: First, the so-called Bhantu 'criminal tribes' from north India; second, Karen and Ranchi forest labourers from Burma and India respectively; and, third, Mopilla 'rebel' deportees from south India.
Dr Frank Heidemann, Social Anthropologist from University of Munich is doing his research among the Ceylon Tamil Repatriates in Tamil Nadu and this led him to Andaman Islands where a small settlement of Sri Lankan Repatriates exists in Katchal and Little Andaman. About 70 families preferred to settle in Andamans in 1974. In Katchal there are about 48 families and 22 families in Little Andaman. The community has very well amalgamated into the Tamil community and there are no clear cut boundaries to distinguish them. However, he said that they have certain constraints like their Ceylon background sometimes create problems for them. The Sri Lankan Repatriates in these Islands have not prospered socio-economically, felt Prof Heidemann.
Speaking about his work about Contemporary Negotiations of the Colonial Legacy in Andaman Islands, Philipp Zehmisch, Munich University said that Cellular Jail can be called the University of Indian Independence Movement. He said that the representation of the local population is not to be seen anywhere. He felt that in the shadows of Cellular Jail, Chatham and Viper Islands have lost their place and significance. The most constant features of the Andaman society over the last 150 years have been consistent growth in population and increasing social complexity. Different culturally hybrid and creolized communities manifested due to a variety of historical migration processes and (post)colonial social engineering policies. State-directed convict transportation, the settlement of refugees, repatriates and landless people under colonization and rehabilitation schemes, as well as independent, autonomous migrations of labourers, traders, soldiers and government servants in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, have given shape to a distinct island society, called Mini-India. This widely used local synonym indicates that the multi-ethnic and religiously diverse population of Andaman migrants depicts the diversity of the Indian subcontinent.
The coexistence of several (re)constructed overseas communities, the indigenous people and the administrative staff from mainland India, must be seen as a dynamic process of constant negotiations of identity, status, privileges, rights and duties. Political competition for recognition by the state and access to its sinecures, for example through quota reservation, caused reifications of group identity with reference to the history of migration. Here, it is the present and the future that are at stake, but arguments are usually located in the past. Group rights, identifications and senses of belonging are linked to the place of origin, birth and the period of settlement in the islands.
In the Andamans, immaterial as well as material objects gain a historical dimension in public debates through their appropriation, reinterpretation or even destruction. The notion of history engenders ideas and objects and gains a specific quality in a rather young social system. In demotic and dominant discourses of the past, words and objects are used to manifest claims and to reinterpret rituals and bodily practices. History is a process in the making, and a field of contested interpretation. Discourses of history are made manifest in the names of groups and places; their imprints can be found in maps, texts, laws and regulations, as well as in the layout of public spaces, in statues and other monuments. Moreover, not only official, hegemonic versions of history matter, but also contesting, and often silenced, subaltern voices. From this perspective, a hereditary occupation of an individual, or a settlement of a minority group next to a creek, stands for an idiosyncratic or emic view of history. Such histories become manifest through the ascription of meaning in the here and now.
The many views of the past are expressed and found in a variety of manifestations. Administrative categories of settlement such as "pre-42", "settlers" and "ten-years of continuous education", which indicate the duration of stay, turn out to be highly politicized vehicles for social mobility among the communities. Japanese bunkers not only embody the bygone strength and endurance of the Axis powers, they have also turned into objects of local myths that are spun around mysterious hoards of gold supposedly buried underneath them. The Cellular Jail, a symbol of colonial oppression, martyrdom and sacrifice in 'kala pani', has been transformed into a contemporary national icon and an attraction for domestic tourists. Moreover, the resettled Ranchi village Birsanagar has been named after the Adivasi freedom fighter Birsa Munda. This very process of historicization is the focus his study.
Prof Francis Xavier, JNRM presented a paper on the Historical Perspective on the Strategic Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. From Ancient period to the recent Chinese incursions to Andaman waters, he said that the Islands had been a launchpad for defence purposes since long.
Dr. Rasheeda Iqbal read from a paper on the Role of Cellular Jail in India's Freedom Struggle. Zubair Ahmed, Editor , The Light of Andamans made a small presentation on the History of Moplahs in the Islands. There was a group discussion too on the subjects presented by the speakers.
The programme commenced with the welcome address by Dr Rasheeda Iqbal and concluded with the vote of thanks proposed by Prof Claire Anderson.