THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS | VOL 35 ISSUE 24 |
13 JAN 2012
North and Middle Andaman District
Shift the Goal Post
Major bone of contention for the Andaman and Nicobar Administration is the closure of Andaman Trunk Road passing through the heart of Jarawa Tribal Reserve. This road is believed to be the life line of the Islands for the people of North and Middle Andaman District, which when closed would be a decision that would be anti-settler and anti development as contrived by the political class here and nodded with approval by the bureaucrats, even at the cost of contempt of court of the highest judicial body of our country for over a decade. It is common knowledge that policy makers since half a century have formulated
Island development policies under total ignorance of the safeguards to be pursued for the Primitive Tribal Group's conservation. Concrete efforts in sensitizing the Panchayati Raj Institutions and settlers on Jarawa Policy have not ever been pursued. Feasibility reports on assessment of alternate viable modes of transportation are never completed in the stipulated time as per the terms and conditions laid down by the Administration. Consultants/ agencies awarded such studies are products of nepotism of the high and the mighty.
Administration for long has tried an ostrich with its head in the sand approach led by migratory bureaucrats all of which is haunting it now. The Jarawas have an uncanny knack of hogging the limelight right when we believe that its curtains for them. The young, educated, present generation of the settlers especially whose parents and grand parents were settled under various rehabilitation schemes of Government of India have started thinking out of the box. PTG's conservation as a unique World Human Heritage is of paramount importance to them. Development at the cost of total annihilation of the Jarawas is not palatable to them. They are aware that a political solution to this problem is virtually impossible without irreversible damage to the PTG's survival and further division of the civilized society on linguistic or regional lines. A judicial solution would always be just and humanitarian but its implementation has been delayed by vested interests in settling personal scores with rival politicians or business houses leading to mayhem. Crucial time has been wasted by the administration in not working simultaneously on creating infrastructure and facilities which would have caused less resentment among the settlers in the event of honouring the court orders.
With great difficulty a separate district of North and Middle Andaman was created amidst its fair share of political controversies and bureaucratic red tapism. It finally has a separate Zilla Parishad, a degree college, a judicial court, a hospital, a few ports and helipads, a small airstrip and a few other facilities but is totally dependent on Port Blair for all its basic needs. For every other eventuality its residents are to rush to Port Blair, be it proceeding to mainland for higher education or super-specialist medical treatment at metros. Traveling to Port Blair and the time it takes to reach here have at times has been a nightmare causing loss of life and lost opportunities in emergency situations due to lack of infrastructure. Traders sitting at Port Blair control their markets and cost of living are much higher for all basic commodities. There is always resentment in the settlers at being a step behind the
Administration cannot continue with the ghost of closure of ATR and its infamous Buffer Zone to torment the Islanders. It has to find ways in building up the North-Middle Andamans as a self sufficient and prosperous new hub for development with direct connectivity to the mainland by developing basic infrastructure at the newly created district of North and Middle Andaman for facilitating direct business links with mainland
both by Air and Sea. Alternate, faster Air and Sea routes and mode of transport are to be developed from Port Blair to North and Middle Andaman District. The District has to have its own FCI godowns along with IOC bunks and developing of Infrastructure for PDS, fuel and essential commodities storage and distribution. The administration should upgrade Dr. R.P. Hospital at Mayabunder as a referral hospital to the level of GB Pant Hospital. Valuable time has already been lost by the administration and its migratory bureaucracy in entangling the whole Jarawa issue into major catastrophe with the inevitable happening. The Member of Parliament and the administration speak different language on the fate of the ATR. The MP at the moment sounds realistic and also elated with the prospect of fodder for his smear campaign virtually gifted to him. On the other hand, the administration is making commitments with assurances, over the outcome of which they have no control. India
The political as well as civil society organizations based in North and Middle Andamans has to demand for equitable development of their district at par with South Andaman District. The Andaman Trunk Road remains a major roadblock for the development of the district, which some politicians in N&M Andamans want to be declared as a backward district. The focus should be to develop the
at Mayabunder at par with JNRM, R P Hospital at par with GB Pant Hospital, develop the harbour and port infrastructure at Mayabunder and the airstrip at Diglipur. Degree College
The focus from closure of ATR should shift to development of North and Middle Andamans. Mayabunder should be declared a Municipality and collection of Octroi can bring much-needed revenue to the local self-government institution. Andaman Trunk Road has remained open for last decade in violation to the Supreme Court Order. It might remain open for a while but the economic situation of the district is not going to improve. The overall development of the District will make it independent and self-sufficient, and reducing its dependency on Port Blair and South Andaman, connected by the most controversial Andaman Trunk Road.