Wednesday, December 21, 2011

EDITORIAL Fresh Wave of Privatisation

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

Fresh Wave of Privatisation

The Andaman Public Works Department gradually stalled recruitment of labour force and the works slipped into the contractors' kitties. Teachers are now recruited under Sarva Shikshya Abhyan. Doctors under NRHM, contract slaves under DRDA and NREGA, Power generation went Surya Chakra way at an enormous cost to the exchequer. Now, most of the services are shifted to Common Service Centres run by private vendors. Most of the tourism property was to go to private operators. It is also learnt that very soon the shipping sector will have boats on wet lease manned, maintained and operated by private operators. The subsidy will sustain all these services.
At first look, the Common Service Centre looks the best bet for the common man who is pushed, insulted and looked down on by the Revenue department, Electricity department and any other place he visits to pay his bill or get a piece of paper. The feeling one gets when one visits a Food World or Reliance Mall, is of a king. He can pick whatever he wants without a scornful look from the grocery shop owner. A simple consumer will like to take a 200 gram nicely sliced and packed cauliflower than the one available at the dirty street corner vegetable vendor. It feels good when you put yourself in the position of a consumer. But, we are not just consumers. We have family and there are kids who are growing, who too need to find a job to sustain their lives.
Unfortunately, it won't be the same for the coming generations who will not have the purchasing power that we have today, thanks to Sixth Pay Commission. A small comparison of the salary structure of a clerk working in a private firm and the government sector will reveal the disparity. The Administration comes out with a minimum wage structure every year. But, why can't they pay the same scale to a government servant, if they think that the meager wage can sustain a family?
The person sitting behind the counter at a Common Service Centre will not be earning more than Rs 200 a day, whereas a government clerk sitting behind the counter at electricity department will be earning more than Rs 500 a day. A labour working with APWD earns about Rs 15000 a month whereas a labourer working under a contractor does not earn more than Rs 6000 a month.
The Government sector was and is the only reasonable employment provider in this Islands, which is now going the privatization way. Our Islands might be the only territory where professional degree holders work as constables, peons and clerks. Educated unemployment is at the rise. Everyone eyes a government job as their ultimate goal in life. It promises them a well-paid, secure and easy life ahead. However, the new mantra of the Administration is privatization in a subtle way that is sugar-coated.
With more unemployment in the government sector, a large workforce will be available in the market to work on cheap wages, which will naturally affect the economy and standard of living of the Islands. We should understand that the process threatens the foundations of the modern welfare state, if not of democracy itself. If we put aside the emotions and take a cold, hard look at privatization to date, what could we say about privatization's impact on the economy? Has it transformed the productive capacity of the economies where it has been implemented or merely transferred ownership of the choicest pieces from the public to the private sector?
Its time we open our eyes and foresee the dangers ahead and stop this wave of privatization which is more dangerous than the largest wave we have experienced in our lifetime - the tsunami.

PAUPER’S LOG - The Protestor

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

The Protestor
 By Abu Arsh

People in Andaman and Nicobar Islands suffer from acquired ignorance to all forms of oppression. Any whimsical policy decision, lack of facilities, poor governance, rampant corruption and a million other issues inflicted on them by the Kleptocrats (new term!) has no effect on their self-respect or dignity. We are unmindful of the frustration this will have on our future generations and how it'll transcend into them being jobless, resource less and opportunity less demons. There is not a semblance of protest anywhere apart from a Periasamy episode, the bridge forum or the Sarva Shiksha duped contract teachers, which got suppressed or entangled into complexities for their propagators on false charges. It is ironical to find that "The Protester" is a global phenomenon this year and we have none in our backyard. We are not talking about protest with political agendas; incited and sponsored by politicians, it's their bread and butter for some cheap publicity but people's movement on the streets for change.
Time magazine has named "The Protester" as its 2011 person of the year last week - the title it gives out annually for the person or thing deemed to have influenced the news agenda most during the year. Time defines the Person of the Year as someone who, for better or for worse, influences the events of the year.
Time Editor Rick Stengel said in a statement "Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough,"
"They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change," he said.
On almost every continent, 2011 has seen an almost unprecedented rise in both peaceful and sometimes violent unrest and dissent. Protesters in a lengthening list of countries including Israel, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and the United States all increasingly link their actions explicitly to the popular revolutions that have shaken up the Middle East.
 "No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. In 2011, protesters didn't just voice their complaints; they changed the world."
Tawakkul Karman, only 32, mother of the Yemen revolution and joint winner of this year's Nobel peace prize is a journalist who has bravely fought against the corrupt regime of dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh - and has endured imprisonment and assassination attempts as a result. Her peaceful methods and fierce dignity make her a symbol of a neglected but inspiring uprising.
A blogger commented - 'The protester? The only ones to come out of it with any credit were those involved in the Arab Spring who really brought about necessary change. In Greece the people wanted something for nothing and weren't prepared to accept measures to tackle debt, while in the West the majority of Occupy protests quickly moved away from their original goal - to highlight corruption in big banks on Wall Street - to outright anti-capitalism protests made up by a few hundred people out of populations of millions which as time went on lost momentum and broke up. They got more coverage than they deserved and in a year from now, certainly by the end of the decade, will be forgotten about'.
Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement, has been named among the top 10 news stories of 2011 by Time magazine. -Rajendra Singh, water conservationist says- Anna Hazare's movement was more of a media driven protest and hence it does not come as a surprise that the Time magazine featured him among the 'People Who Mattered' story in its issue. I have huge respect for Anna as he led the protest in a peaceful manner by involving the youth. But the agenda of the protest is very superficial. However, taking Anna's humble background into consideration, it is a huge achievement for him that he could lead a protest of this stature.
Another blog post said- Interesting that aside from Tawakkul and Chile's Camila Vallejo, the year of protest didn't really produce many figureheads. This probably goes to show that they were mass spontaneous movements, potent despite being leaderless.
Can we ever dream of protesting against sustained molestation of our self-respect and dignity ever in these islands? Can we be the Change?

YOUR | SPACE - Youth and Drugs

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

Youth and Drugs

Things like Charas, Ganja and beer are very much familiar to the youngsters of our islands. 'COREX' a cough syrup that can be easily bought from any medical shop is taken in large amount not to cure disease but to take pleasure out of the drugs that the syrup consists.

By Yasmeen Shabnam

We say that the future of India is in the hands of the youth of our country but we never bother to see that the youth of our country is in hands of drugs. Every 9 out of 10 youngster of our country is addicted to drugs. One of the major reasons of this issue is the adaptation of western culture.  We all are aware of the fact that our present generation is busy listening western music and wearing western cloths but now they have taken one more major step to adopt drugs in their life.  Today these youngsters are fascinated towards drugs and think that it's a "COOL" attitude. They think that it releases stress and gives pleasure. It just starts with a cigarette and keeps on increasing to various things. In every institution, may it be a school or college you can find a group of youngsters indulged in this business. It starts with one addicted person and slowly it turns the whole institution into a mess.
If we talk about our islands, we too are not left behind. Things like Charas, Ganja and beer are very much familiar to the youngsters of our islands. 'COREX' a cough syrup that can be easily bought from any medical shop is taken in large amount not to cure disease but to take pleasure of the drugs that the syrup consists. Not only the boys but also the girls are equally addicted to drugs in our islands. You can find students inhaling 'fluid' which is used for correction. These practices have really increased in our islands and have become the reason for the increase of crime.
Serious steps should be taken against it by adapting various methods such as by setting an Anti-Drugs Squad in every institution to control drugs amongst students. The medical stores should not be allowed to supply drugs without prescription from doctors. The drug dealers should be caught and given strict punishment. The addicted persons should be given special medical treatment. Remember, drugs is something that can ruin your entire life and the time when you will realize about your loss it would be too late. So be far from such practices and also raise your voice if you see any such practice around you.  Your future and the future of our country are in your hands so lead it in the right way.
The writer is a student of DBRAIT

COVER STORY: The Administration: A Collective Portrait

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011


The Administration
A Collective Portrait

The chaotic state of affairs in the ANI family is a fact that everybody understands but nobody admits in the corridors of power.  ANI Admn is a close family, well guarded and protected. Exposes of corruption does not attract punitive action here. A collective portrait of the family.

By Zubair Ahmed

ANI Administration is a family, a close family and a well protected family with a Sicilian way of life. You may make any number of complaints against the family members. Media can expose any number of corruption cases with evidence. Punitive actions will not be taken. Just things will be set right internally. Even every corrective action is guarded as a family secret. Here heads never roll. The fact is that the Admn does not believe in threats and theatrics; they're calm, cool, collected and calculating. They know what they're capable of; why broadcast every action to the heavens when silent guerilla tactics work even better and in favour of the family.
Whether it's the supply of sub-standard medicine, wide-scale corruption in procurement of expensive spares in Directorate of Shipping, Manipulated quarry licenses issued by the District Administration, Mass squandering of forest resources at Havelock, Contradictory statements and stand on ATR and Buffer Zone, Lease of Govt owned guest houses to private parties, Lease of Islands for peanuts, Common Service Centres operated by private owners or any other decision taken within the family, which the gullible Islanders are not aware of. The family knows everything that happens under its nose. But, it will only side with the family.
It's not very true that everything is fine in the family. Family feuds have started to crop up. There are visible rifts everywhere - between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Secretary and between Member of Parliament and the LG.
Lieutenant Governor Bhopinder Singh will be completing his 5 years as the Tenth Administrator of ANI after he took charge on 29 December 2006. A collective portrait of the incumbent Lieutenant Governor and his administration in the last five years is like a pot-boiler and edge of the seat thriller. With four Chief Secretaries, the experience has been varying. Shumsher K Sheriff had rather an unpleasant exit from the Islands. Cherring Targey was side-lined by a coterie. Vivek Rae did not get into the fist fight and had his own way. And now, with Shakti Sinha, contradictory decisions on various issues are coming out. Three out of four Consigliores were not in tune with the wishes and style of functioning of the LG. 
It all started the day the LG addressed the crowd at ITF grounds soon after he assumed charges. LG Bhopinder Singh took a dig on the Member of Parliament and even the Chief Secretary. He tried to outshine the Member of Parliament by saying that when the hearts of the Islanders glow, the gloom of Island Tourism Festival doesn't matter.
On the evening of 29 December 2006, LG Bhopinder, addressing the media, had said that nothing will be imposed from above. "I don't believe in operating from the office alone. I would be touring extensively" Bhopinder Singh had said. He would like to keep his ears to the earth so that he would feel the rumblings inside. That way, he believed, he would be able to serve the people better and meet their hopes and aspirations in a more positive and effective way. He assured that he would work in close cooperation with the stakeholders and nothing would be imposed from above.
On media he had said, "Media are the eyes and ears of the people. Media persons have a tremendous role to reflect the concerns of the people" he had said. He would maintain a healthy relation with the media and would have frequent interaction with it to disseminate information and get the feedback as well, he had said.
In the last five years, many things have happened on the ground. Much water has flown down the Kalpong since. The islands have taken giant strides in almost all the areas of development. It might have been laconic, lopsided, but strides nevertheless. But post tsunami period offered a golden opportunity to turn the islands into a modern, progressive and prosperous territory. Much of the advantage is lost in the last five years.
Growing unemployment, shrinking job market, increasing influx and associated problems are formidable ones. The sunrise areas like fisheries, tourism and high-value agriculture are yet to take off in its literal sense. Moreover, there has been wide disgruntlement inside the family and outside.


Shumsher K Sheriff was the Chief Secretary when the incumbent LG took charge. He had earlier worked with Bhopinder Singh in Rashtrapati Bhavan. The relationship between them was not very cordial, it is learnt. It had a direct impact on the Administration. Sheriff left the Islands in the most unpleasant way.
Soon after three months of his departure, Cherring Targey also felt the inner rumblings of the Administration and had planned to leave. However, he remained here till his superannuation. Sincerity, dedication and commitment do not visit an administration where chief secretaries are humiliated, where the senior secretaries are ignored, the bureaucracy as whole demoralized and the subordinate officers and employees dissatisfied. 
Vivek Rae did not get into a direct conflict with the Administrator. However, he had his own way. The case of lease of tourism property in Neil Island was a bone of contention between the two. He made his stand clear by noting that the benchmark was far below. However, the Administrator had his way. A Deputy Commissioner was planted and the file was through. Now, the rift is showing. It is learnt that the Deputy Commissioner is also being replaced.


The Member of Parliament is the bridge that connects the Admn with the people. The MP got the least recognition and regard from the Admn. Member of Parliament is not a competitor to Lieutenant Governor.  A quick look into the questions raised by the MP in the Parliament reveals a lot about the divide. The LG has always tried to bypass all channels and get connected with the common public, a strategy which has failed utterly. In a recent press conference MP blamed the Administrator for keeping the Islanders in darkness about Andaman Trunk Road. He has been raising many issues, which the family does not care.


It's an unwritten code of conduct in the Andaman and Nicobar Admn.  Even if things are going wrong, and a coterie is working against the written policies of the department, it will not be tolerated if you speak against it or try to reset it. You will be bullied, transferred, stripped off the portfolios you hold. The family is sometimes extended, for convenience - with new members enlisted. And, they are very important part of the family. Tourism department has a written policy now. The Chief Secretary wants the guest houses owned by the Admn to be leased out - of course, to the extended members, as he believes that helping fellow brothers is profitable in every sense, personally and bottom line. The Lieutenant Governor on the other hand takes very emotional decisions - The guest houses shall remain with the Administration. The employees are happy. Another brownie point earned by the Administrator. Is there a small conflict of interest? Is it a dispute over the policy? The policy is a printed document, which was well appreciated in the capital and also won accolades.  It says that the role of the department will be of a facilitator rather than a tourism operator.
Abraham Varickamakal, Secretary of Tourism one fine morning was stripped off tourism portfolio. It went to Satish Mathur, who is the PS to LG. The boss or the second-in-command knows that when the situation reaches an impasse, it's time for the unexpected move that shows you can hurt your opponents in personal ways that they cannot expect, let alone imagine: a calculated overreaction that shows your opponents in the family that their actions have consequences.
Binay Bhushan, who left the Islands, has joined Delhi Tourism as General Manager and any guesses who the Managing Director is? G G Saxena, who was here as Tourism Secretary, when most of the consultancies for the tourism projects were initiated. God save Delhi Tourism! The family has diversified and expanded.
Now M N Murali, Director of Industries have been entrusted the huge responsibility of Tourism too. Of course, you might ask what the status of Industries department is. It can't go downhill anymore. The tourism department is also not going uphill either.


The extension of Buffer Zone to 5 kms was the contribution of present Administrator. It is widely known that a resort in Collinpur was the target. However, it boomeranged. Now, the same Administration wants the Buffer Zone to be a toned and filtered one, which does not affect the Settler community residing in the fringes of Jarawa Reserve. Jarawa issue is a very sensitive issue at Centre. Sonia Gandhi, National Advisory Council, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and even the MHA have strongly advocated a soft corner for the Jarawas, which has become an impediment for the Administration to take an unambiguous stand. The Administration seems to be caught between the deep sea and the devil.
The ANI Admn too does not want to close the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR). An alternate route has been advised by many. The Administration does not have the willpower to execute it. There is no dearth of surveys and studies by committees and sub-committees, groups and sub-groups on this issue. The route via Bambooflat and Shoal Bay was also a matter of study. It never took any concrete shape.


About 24.791 cubic metre of Sawn timber including Padauk, Superior Hardwood, Teak, Minor Forest Produces (Bamboo and Cane) worth Rs 13 Lakhs was seized at Havelock. Such huge quantity of seizure by the Police department has exposed the nexus between forest officials and the poachers. Four accused were arrested. But, the bigger question still remains unanswered. What were the forest officials doing when such a large quantity of timber was poached from the forests? Why is the Administration not initiating any action against the Divisional Forest Officer or the Ranger? Was there no negligence of duty? Simply, the family members need to be protected, whatever they do or don’t do.


From reliable sources, we have gathered information that the Directorate of Shipping Services has got all the Crankshafts replaced by the Vendor, who had supplied used and defective ones. The huge difference in the price of the Digital Microwave Frequency Counter, which was procured without any market survey is also being realized by the Directorate. All these happened after the misappropriation and corruption was reported in the media. But, once again those involved in this issue has been let off. Here too, the family members are protected. That's the way the family functions!


The work of refit repairs, survey and certification of MV Panighat was awarded to a firm Dweep Engg Works by the Directorate of Shipping Services on 27 April 2010. The work was required to be completed within a period of 120 days. The firm failed to maintain the schedule after the first stage. After taking the vessel on slipway, the progress of the firm became very slow. The first stage payment of Rs 480777/- was released to the firm and a show cause notice was issued on 24 Nov 2010 to which the firm did not respond. Once again, a show cause notice was issued seeking explanation on 29 Jan 2011. The firm once again did not respond.  On 4 March 2011, a letter was once again issued informing that the Directorate proposed to terminate the contract agreement and debar the firm from future participation in any tenders and blacklist it. Even after two months of issuing the letter, the directorate did not receive any response.
Due to delay in the work and overstay on the slipway, financial loss to the tune of Rs 822800/- was to be recovered and it was proposed to cancel the contract agreement.
The Blacklist Order was signed by the Director vide Order No. 01 dated 20 June 2011. It is learnt from reliable sources in the Directorate that the Order was given to the firm without any mention in the records. What conspired afterwards is still a mystery. The copy of the order that LOA has in possession was signed by the Director. When contacted, Capt Seshasai told LOA that the letter was never issued to the firm. He also said that there are people inside the department who are sabotaging DSS.
When asked about the Order, he said that it was a ploy to intimidate the firm to accelerate the pace of work. Another Sicilian message from the family.


A major goof-up committed by the Lieutenant Governor, when he communed a meeting of the farmers and their representatives and told them that the amount of Rs 130 crores sanctioned by the MHA was not compensation in lieu of submerged agricultural land, but relief package. However, in the IDA meeting, ministers objected to it and said that the amount was released as per the demand of ANI Admn for compensation as CEC had rejected the claim for release of forest land.

This collective portrait does not mean that the administration has nothing to its credit. But it's a fact that there are no visible and achievable targets in any sector. Moreover nepotism and favouritism rules the roost. If you are in the good books of the family, you will remain the blue-eyed boy, with the choicest postings and portfolios. However, the impact of the disconnect does hurt the sentiments of the Islanders, who have no say in matters of governance.

Caught in a Quagmire. Fate of ATR Sealed: Bishnu Pada Ray

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

Caught in a Quagmire
Fate of ATR Sealed: Bishnu Pada Ray

The Andaman Trunk Road (ATR), one of the most controversial issues of ANI evokes much interest nationally and internationally. The stretch of a road which traverses through Jarawa territory is an enigma, the fate of which truly and effectively hangs in balance.

By Zubair Ahmed

In a recent press conference called by Bishnu Pada Ray, the lone Member of Parliament, quoting from a heap of documents procured from various sources, which included correspondence between the Central government ministries and the ANI Admn as well as the letters that originated from Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC) to concerned Ministries, and a recent correspondence from Director Tribal Welfare, Bishnu concluded that the fate of ATR is sealed and might face closure anytime.
Citing a correspondence sent by Som Naidu, Director, Tribal Welfare to the Chief Port Administrator on 14 December 2011, Bishnu informed the media that the Administration has seriously taken up the matter of an Alternate Sea Route to Baratang Island. The letter referring the WAPCOS report said that "a proposal for the alternate sea-route to Baratang was sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for approval. The MHA has directed to take up the matter with Ministry of Shipping as the proposal involves dredging, procurement of vessels and development of jetties." The letter further says that "the cost of the project of the alternate sea-route to Baratang Islands comes to Rs 130-135 crores, if the vessel is excluded, dredging and creation of jetty including navigational marks would cost around Rs 32-35 crores."
The letter by Director Tribal Welfare with the approval of Chief Secretary has asked the Port Management Board to project a provision for the dredging and creation of jetty including navigational marks for the alternate sea route to Baratang Island in the 12th Five Year Plan.
Quoting from various documents Bishnu said that in July 2010, Dr Syeda Hameed, Member Planning Commission wrote to Sonia Gandhi, reminding her that NAC had formed a Sub-group of Experts to suggest an action plan for the "protection" and "preservation" of the Jarawa. Dr Hameed was the Co-chairman of the Committee along with Jairam Ramesh and both of them had extensively traveled through the Jarawa Territory and interacted with all stakeholders and even traveled on an alternate sea route. The report was never examined as NAC was dissolved. She also mentioned about the Babu Committee report which had similar recommendations and also wrote further that "with every passing day, the situation on the Islands is worsening. As the Administration continues to await "a new policy" and a decision on the Andaman Trunk Road, the Jarawa are being put on voyeurtistic display and subjected to foreign foods and germs." She requested NAC "to advice on this sensitive issue of small voiceless people, which will be useful input for IDA."
In response to the letter, Rita Sharma, Secretary, NAC wrote to the Lieutenant Governor in August 2010, and sought to take up the matter in the Standing Committee of the Island Development Authority (IDA) and the main meeting of the IDA in September 2010.
Dhiraj Srivastava, Private Secretary to the Chairperson, NAC had paid a visit to the Islands in November 2010 and met the officials in the Administration and toured the Jarawa Reserve areas.
Soon after the visit of Srivastava, in January 2011, Sonia Gandhi wrote to Kantilal Bhuria, Minister of Tribal Affairs that "despite the follow up several issues such as the opening of an alternate sea route by-passing the Jarawa Reserve area, an effective institutional mechanism to implement the Jarawa policy in the ANI, hazards of local tourism operations etc are yet to be fully resolved." She also wrote to P Chidambaram, Home Minister directing MHA to come out with a time bound action plan on decisions already taken and review further measures at regular intervals.
Speaking to the media, Bishnu lambasted the UPA government and the ANI Administration for its neglect of the convenience of the settlers. He quoted widely from the Sub-group report and said that VIPs are taken for Jarawa voyeurism by the Administration.. He criticized the Administration saying that it does not keep its word. He said that ATR is the lifeline of the Islanders and they have not given thought about the 80-90 trucks that transport essential goods on a daily basis. He also showed concern about future military movement in the event of any kind of adventurism by China, which has a listening post in Coco Island.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Administration as well as the Member of Parliament are on the same boat as far as the issue of Jarawa policy is concerned. The Administration does not want to shoulder the burden of a decision and has shirked the responsibility and sought the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to suggest and advice a suitable policy. However, in a letter sent to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, ANI Admn says "It cannot be the mandate of the A&N Admn to confine Jarawas within the Tribal Reserve Areas and prevent them from reaching out to the modern world for all time to come… The challenge is to ensure that the Jarawa are empowered to deal with the outside world without losing their virality…"  The Member of Parliament in a letter had mentioned that Jarawas cannot be kept in extreme isolation anymore and needs to be mainstreamed.
If the documents quoted by the MP have to be believed, like any other decision imposed from above, this too will remain in paper without implementation. When the Administration has shown the nerve to keep the road open even after the historic Supreme Court Judgement, what a correspondence from the Tribal Ministry or the Chairperson of National Advisory Council will achieve?
The fact is that both the Administration as well as the Member of Parliament very well knows that the road will remain open. Both of them are trying their best to keep the road open on one pretext or other.

Desist from the Temptation of Giving Jarawas a Strategy

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

Desist from the Temptation of Giving Jarawas a Strategy

Manish Chandi, a research scholar working in these Islands since 1995, is also a member of the expert group constituted by the ANI Admn to ascertain the behavioural changes in Jarawas and the reasons for their increasing interaction with the outside world. He responded to the queries of LOA on the issue of closure of ATR

As the Jarawas have come out of the forest and are frequenting the villages close to their habitat, do you think that the closure of the road at this juncture will put an end to their miseries?
Have the Jarawas actually come out of the forest or do they still live in the Andamans, which has forest and fields, roads and sea? This expression of 'Jarawa's coming out of the forest needs to be seen rather as their freedom of movement so that we do not try and restrict them in a forest, boat or hospital etc. From what I understand they come out and go back on occasion with varying regularity and irregularity at some places, and they do not do so because of any miseries that we assume afflict them. It is an opportunity that they are using ever since hostile stances from both colonizers and Jarawas transformed into spectacles of barter, negotiation and our perception of being capable to serve their needs through welfare; this is all more perception and opinionated based on our curiosities and varying sensibilities rather than being based on sound information and argument. From the days of the bush police to poachers- Indian (from the Islands) and from outside (Burma etc) began using their territory they have always been under duress in attempting to protect what they own and want. In fact more than anything else the confrontations of the past and that of the present, have been influenced by the ways in which tribal welfare has being administered visually through measures such as gifts and later to feeding and catering to their immediate demands; this displays a vaccum of ideas and that which we think has seemingly deterred their hostility making it conducive for poachers. Their movement is not the arrival of a people from a forest due to lack of facilities and because of any other lacunae (may be there is a lack of fun in the forest- at least the kind that can be had by being the spectacle and the naughty boy or girl in front of everybody else (all of us), to benefit).  In essence, what I'm trying to get across is that we can assume that there are many miseries, or happenings outside and within the forest, but at the same time I would like to stress that it is easy to see that given decades of being treated as the exotic Islanders who received gifts, and were also kept in place by gun toting police men, it is but natural that curiosity gets the better of communities when they see some benefit in foraging off the insecurities and sensitivities of other people when they can. From 1999 onwards when they became more peaceable with others after events of 1997 onward when non hostile engagements with Jarawas and others developed, we have continually fumbled around. In 1998 Mr NC Ray (then secretary to the LG) even went in a helicopter to throw out bags of coconuts and bananas to the Jarawas from the air assuming there was a sudden food scarcity and that bananas and coconuts would provide succor; when they come to the bastis of Tirur and Kadamtala etc we have always tried to appease them. Today fishermen and hunters of pig and boar & lobster catchers camp in the Jarawa reserve and gift to stay on for brief periods. This is learning and a perpetuation of the gifting technique to pacify and acquire space on formerly hostile ground. This is exactly what has happened in the past with the Onge in the late 1970's and 1980's. This can be verified by asking those old residents of North Wandoor, Hut Bay, Ramakrishnapur, the 17th km village etc how they interacted with the Onge, made peace with those camps on the west coast of Little Andaman, and eventually even burnt down huts of the Onge in the early 1990's near Jackson Creek, Umber coupe and such areas.  The Jarawa have seen our bad sides and our good intentions too, they will continue to come. Closing of the road is not any effort to stop Jarawas from coming or going anywhere (this must be seen and realised- its quite simple). I guess it's more a means to restrain ourselves.
One cannot stop them from going anywhere unless the Bush police or the JPP or whatever they want to call them start using their guns like they used to in the past. The forest belongs to the Jarawa and the road trespasses through it- the road is not very old (1989) and it has been and will continue to be a means for the control of a region that never belonged to us but was taken away from indigenous islanders. The other implications that the closure of the road has are with change to roadside forests, the increasing traffic, pollution and the costly repair of the road on a yearly basis, the gifting and sightseeing that it has opened up and the exchange of culture(?) through the garbage we dispense with on the road. Also, I wonder if you have seen Jarawa households by the road, kids playing while their parents are out looking for food, men and women on occasion bathing by the road in a stream and the ideology and voyeurism we indulge in from our seats in buses and cars. Just like we respect our privacy and space, I am sure they too do. We have come far enough with knowledge of the world around us to know that despite the Jarawas probably wanting to hang around near the road, that it also will have multiple negative effects in time and that they have every chance of landing up in another Dugong Creek or Strait Island settlement in the years to come.
 One can elicit changes in their behaviour from bus drivers and tourist taxi wallahs- no need for 'experts' here and neither are the latter experts in any way. Clear and rational thinking based on sound information is required, not opinions. It is as simple as being in a position to decide not to colonise their space just like our 'Indian' space was many years ago on the subcontinent and even before.
They are a people who tried to prevent their space being taken over in the 1980's along the road with their bows and arrows some decades ago. Now they seem to like hanging around, but we are knowledgeable from examples worldwide of terms such as culture contact, disempowerment, and also privacy. Closure of the road will not ensure the survival of 5 or 50,000 Jarawas. What it will do is bring us-as the larger society, to understand that the region belongs to them- we have the technology and means of going about it-(shall come to the shipping in shambles bit later).  Kadamtala, Tirur Kausalya Nagar etc etc will be visited from time to time. WE need to evolve and act on a policy and also educate the public on why we need to respect their space and not philosophize (I am doing so at the moment) - we need to act.

Will they go back to the forest and start their life afresh without outside intervention?

I do not think 277-300(?) Jarawas are waiting at Puttatang or Bhatubasti wondering what to do..- go back to their chadda's or stay and rent houses in Baratang's Bamboo nullah, Port Blair's Nayagaon or Strait Island.
There has begun a process of intermingling and exchange. This will continue and they will come and go as the please and it could very well be so. WE are the ones who should do things not as we please but keep some restraint in our need to try and solve problems we think other people have. We have to rid ourselves of the rot of ideas within. Local villagers who suffer the jaunts of the Jarawa and those others who prosper with the supply of welfare goods need to know that if we want to have Jarawas for neighbours, we must treat them with respect and with dignity, learn about them maybe but not treat them to our notions of 'goodies and beer' to have a good time at someone else's expense. We are a very racial and colour biased society- we wish to make the Jarawa 'aadmi' by teaching them, rather than learning from them. The exchange process of crabs, deer meat etc for articles like flavoured tobacco, (maybe alcohol-am not sure) can be transformed by stopping that process where possible. Language plays a very important role here and conversations can be carried out in their language. Appreciative learning involves respecting the 'others' life and ways of going about it in his or her world view, and taking it further based on consensus. Like I have tried to articulate before, our intervention should be based on the least intervention, in terms of 'welfare measures', in terms of messing with other peoples affairs. There are so many areas in Port Blair and elsewhere in the islands where local people (settlers etc) require interventions because they are not able to handle a variety of livelihood issues on their own. The Jarawa need our sensibility by learning from examples of the changes brought about to the lives of the Andamanese, Onge, and themselves and the 'Milale moonlighting' boat trips.

Who do you think are responsible for the current situation of the Jarawas? What survival strategies can be adopted to save this indigenous tribe from extinction?

WE are collectively responsible for the situation we are in. WE call ourselves democratic, mini India, shining gold coin or whatever....but we have also imagined a lot of things before actually knowing them, and tried finding solutions to civilize the 'primitive'-"hamarae adivasi bhaiyon and behanon", on the edge of survival!
As far as I would like to think, the Jarawas and other hunter gatherers have worked out their strategy- hunt and gather, forage and pillage where possible. We have to be able to desist the temptation to give them a strategy, but rather allow them to devise their own henceforth, and as always. Of course we also have to keep our friendly neighborhood poachers (foreign and Indian) out of the reserve for them to be able to carry on with their strategy of hunting and gathering. Unless of course we think otherwise, like we have been all these years and continue to preach to the Jarawa. Actually I wouldn't say -'we have'...rather policy makers and implementers. There have been many voices from the 1970's onward who have tried telling the local administration to try to stop playing around. This is the result of the ways they acted on their policies without caring to understand why those people said what they did.

What alternate do you suggest if the road is closed? As the shipping sector is in shambles, can the administration provide proper connectivity through sea? What should be done to overcome this problem?

I do agree that the shipping sector is in shambles. I dread to realize that some day I will again have to go and wait in a queue at Phoenix bay jetty to buy a ticket on MV Chowra or Dering or maybe a new (Milale?)...and wait from early morning with pan chewing aroma's around, and then peer through a hole in the wall with metal jalli work so that no violence is perpetrated on the ticket clerk who will use a ballpoint pen to write my name, age and destination etc, all after the click of a button when a ticket rolls out of the dot matrix printer as a 'computerized ticket'.
All this, if I get that ticket, or else wait for the next ship… same way next time. Travelling to the Nicobars has been a nightmare at times.
Apart from the ticketing nightmare, some of the ships are bearable, others not so. Shipping etiquette has gone down with every anchor dropped, and raised; paan coloured decks, roaches and rats in the bunk and cabins, and dour faces at sea. Some of the new ships that ply are fast and can be managed efficiently if they wanted to. The captains of some vessels are under stress from having to cater to a variety of demands against many odds of governance. It also requires a public aware of their rights and needs.
The recent expose of the shipping shambles of A&N in your paper has done make people aware and bring others in public scrutiny. This interaction will help improve situations rather than like the ticket clerk, use a ball point on a 'computerized ticket' and say 'challega'. If toilets in hotels have cold and hot water taps, why can't ships be better used by people?  They are so much more comfortable than having to squeeze in to a bus and traverse the Islands on a bumpy and winding road? The ships are faster, and have comfortable seats (OK the AC is usually switched off to save on diesel so that the excess can be sold in the black market)- this can be rectified and the journey made a little more easier.
Sometimes limitations on Islands can often help bring about innovative and sustainable lifestyles. Jetties and wharfs across the islands will ease the load on Port Blair that is bursting. Local businessmen and houses across the islands will get their goods faster if they are off loaded at their own ports rather than doubling transportation from Port Blair to Diglipur. Spreading infrastructure will spread skill and give shape to life on the islands rather than allow it to explode. WE seem to have this idea that every place should have what is available elsewhere (be like the mainland syndrome), rather than be unique in our own way, working out challenges for a future on island that have biological and cultural diversity and also limitations that can make life unique. I say this given that there was a hare brained idea of introducing a railway network across the length of the islands. There are jetty's in most places that require them, infrastructure or part of it is there- all it needs is improvement and people willing to use it and ensure that its used and maintained well. Maintaining that road is a boon for contractors and for supply networks that have built up after the ATR was operationalised- but one must ask at what cost? Islanders usually are used to the sea and live surrounded by it. It's best if we know how to use the sea and our resources to the best benefit and for years to come.

The Light of Adnamans VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011

The Light of Andamans - VOL 35 | ISSUE 22 | 16 DEC 2011