Thursday, September 27, 2012

Focus on Basic Infrastructure: Amit Sateja


INTERVIEW: Amit Sateja, Director, Tourism
Focus on Basic Infrastructure: Amit Sateja

Amit Sateja, Director, Tourism, AN Admn tried to clarify issues related to Viper Yatch Marina Project. However, he has set his priorities right with focus on basic amenities at tourism sites and building a convincing "Brand Andaman". Excerpts from the interview:

There is an allegation that the revenue model adopted in Yatch Marina Project is flawed? What if the Company shows loss in the books?
We have not mentioned about profit sharing. Its revenue sharing and the company is bound to share 15% of the revenue with the Admn.

What was the criterion for fixing Re 1 for the land component for the next 35 years?
We have followed the guidelines set by Planning Commission and in PPP mode; the land is leased out for Re 1 only.

What about the concession fee for the water front, which is fixed at Rs 11.38 lakhs per annum? Is there any clause to increase the charges if it's revised by Port Management Board (PMB)?
Yes, in the agreement, we have clearly specified that the charges will increase if PMB revises it.

When the L1 bidder quoted 15% revenue sharing, the L2 has quoted just 5% percent. Don't you think that the vast difference suggests foul play?
In PPP model, many figures are arrived based on assumptions. How can we question them? If they have quoted 15% revenue share, it's a good preposition for the government.

You have not specified the services for which the Company has to share the revenue. What if the Company diverts its activities thus diverting revenue as well?
They have the right to utilise the services of other service providers.

The Planning Commission had raised many objections about the project. Why did EFC or ANI Admn overlook it?
See, in a meeting, diverse views come up. However, the final decision arrived by the Committee has to be accepted.

Coming to tourism sector, why the whole focus is in South Andaman? North and Middle Andaman remains neglected.
The Ministry of Tourism has already engaged Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) for a project circuit starting from Port Blair to Diglipur touching 8-9 tourism spots. Basic amenities with required infrastructure will be provided at each site and a circuit will be developed, for which the survey will start very soon.
Moreover, for tourism to take off, we need to have an anchor Island. For South Andaman, it's Havelock at present. We need to sort out the connectivity issues for tourism to develop in the Islands.

What is the status of Canopy Walk? The Admn lost two years in vain trying to procure Padauk.
Yes, now the proposal to use Padauk has been dropped. We are using galvanised steel for the pillars and for the walkway, steel covered with padauk. We need five clear months to complete the project.

Don't you think that tourism is highly subsidised in the Islands? Instead of earning revenue, we are spending on tourists.
We need to look into differential pricing for tourists and local population for the same services like transportation fares to make tourism profitable. I will look into it.

What is your focus area? Do you have any projects in the anvil?
My first priority is to create basic facilities like change rooms, drinking water and sheds at tourism sites.
Building Brand Andaman is another area where we are concentrating. The tourism website is being revamped and service providers' directory is in the process of updation. Once, we have the list of registered service providers, we will share the Tourism Insignia with them to be used on tourist vehicles.
We are also planning to take the representatives of Associations to all festivals, national and international.
This year in the IITF, 40% space of the ANI stall is reserved for tourism. Moreover, we are continuously pursuing the issue of exorbitant airfare in the mainland sector. Hopefully, the issue will be resolved soon.

Heritage Tourism: Alternative Plan for Viper Island

Heritage Tourism: Alternative Plan for Viper Island

Mukeshwar Lall, a local-born and a renowned historian and filmmaker of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with about 40 documentaries to his credit has joined the movement against the Viper Project and is providing all support by highlighting the historical facet of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. An ardent collector of archival documents, photographs and books on the penal history of the Islands, he had also written the voluminous script for the Viper Island Light and Sound Show, which was shelved later after the equipments damaged by tsunami.
Speaking to The Light of Andamans, Mukeshwar Lall gave an alternative integrated project on heritage tourism for Viper Island. "There is a need to restore the important structures at Viper Island archaeologically," he said. "A circuit with Viper-Chatham-Cellular Jail and Ross Island can be planned with various activities under Heritage Tourism. A talking fa├žade, Light and Sound Show, Museum and a Research Centre related with the freedom struggle of 1857 can be put up at Viper Island. A convention and seminar hall and a well-stocked library with other amenities can also be planned. Massive replicas of the complete jail can also be erected in Viper Island.
"There are so many Second World War bunkers and tunnels in Port Blair and surroundings, which are in a state of neglect. A well-planned conducted heritage tour of the Islands with proper technological support will go a long way in the promotion of tourism in the Islands," Mukesh said.
Tourists interested in Heritage and Historical tourism should have sufficient activities at Viper Island itself. "What we have done at Ross and Cellular Jail should not be repeated anywhere else," Mukesh said. "We have decorated the interiors of Cellular Jail galleries with bright colours, which does not evoke the fear and pain, inflicted on the freedom fighters," he added.
Commenting on the Yacht Marina Project coming up at Viper Island, he said that Yacht Marina can be only an added tourism activity. However, he pointed out that the proposed site for the 30-room accommodation is reclaimed land, which is unsuitable for construction. He also said that selection of Viper Island for such a project shows the insensitivity of the Admn towards the sacrifices of the freedom fighters.

Unclear Clearances and Procedures

Unclear Clearances and Procedures

Subramanian Swamy, President, Janata Party recently sought information regarding the procedures followed for the selection of the firm to execute the project of setting up of Marina at Viper Island. In a correspondence to Satish Mathur, Secretary Tourism, Swamy has raised concern saying that as the matter involves national security, the Admn must reveal the procedures adopted to select the party to execute the project.
Swamy wrote to the Admn after Bishnu Pada Ray had forwarded a letter received from the Secretary Tourism answering queries about the Viper Marina Project
The ANI Admn have procured clearance from Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC) for the Yacht Marina Project. However, it is alleged that the Security Clearance has to come from Integrated Defence Services Headquarters for such a project.
Ministry of Defence in response to a RTI filed by the protestors have informed that they have not received any proposal from ANI Admn to develop the 50-berth Yacht marina alongwith accommodation facilities at Viper Island has been accorded security clearance. "We have received a No Objection Certificate from Andaman and Nicobar Command for development of a Yacht Marina at Viper Island and Command Point in principle," said Amit Sateja.
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has also informed in response to an RTI application that they haven't received any documents on environment and CRZ clearances regarding development of the Yacht Marina at Viper Island.

Planning Commission: Sidelined!

Planning Commission: Sidelined!

The most ardent critic of the procedures adopted in the Yacht Marina Project at Viper Island has been the Planning Commission. In the EFC meeting held on 25 Feb 2010, Gajendera Haldea, Principal Advisor vigorously opposed the project and reiterated that "the state of development of tourism in the Islands had not been a success story, with most of the activities being taken up and monitored under state control." He also raised apprehension that if the intention is to provide parking facilities for the yachts like in Phuket etc, it should not be a welcome idea.
He also insisted on an integrated plan for the Viper Island before commencing the Yacht Marina Project or the proposal would lead to sub-optimal use of the prime public property. It seems that the Planning Commission had been fed that Viper Island is one of the most suitable location for tourism in A and N Islands. It also raised objection about the bidding process being followed.
He also suggested that the hotel component should be taken out of the PPP mode and only Marina to be taken up for which Planning Commission had approved 50% subsidy i.e. Rs 7.5 crores. However, the Committee, it seems overlooked the views of Planning Commission and recommended the proposal to invite financial bids by issuing RFP for the Yacht Marina Project.
Piqued by the outcome of the meeting, an Office Memorandum was sent the very next day by Planning Commission raking up its apprehensions. It only agreed that whatever approval has been accorded are all with "in principle" approval and final approval can be given only after looking into the mandatory guidelines.
It objected that the hotel component should be delinked from the Marina Project, if the fund provided by Planning Commission has to be used.
It also raised objection that the value of the project was shown below Rs 100 crores and is being used as an argument for not applying the PPP related rules, procedures and documents. It alleged that the value of the land and waterfront is being excluded from this computation.
On 26 May 2010, once again Planning Commission shot another Office Memorandum pointing out that ANI Admn has not followed the two-stage bidding process mandated by the Ministry of Finance. It also alleged that the RFP procedure as recommended by EFC was also not used. On 15 June 2010, once again it consistently noted that overlooking the mandatory procedure could lead to sub-optimal outcome, besides inviting objections from CAG and CVC. On 17 June 2010, it kept warning that ANI Admn, which is governed by the financial/procurement rules issued by the Ministry of Finance requires to follow the procedures and any violation or departure from these rules would require competent approvals based on adequate justification. It also questioned why only in this particular instance, such significant departures are undertaken.
However, setting aside all objections, Ministry of Finance on 23 July 2010 observed that the bidding process was found acceptable and fully consistent with the requirement of objectivity and transparency.
The incessant criticism from Planning Commission and the abruptly ended objections raise many questions about the way the whole issue was tackled. The Chief Secretary had tried to convince PC that an integrated project for Viper Island is on the anvil and a consultant appointed. In fact, Mahindra Consultancy was hired for a cost of Rs 33 Lakhs. However the outcome remains a mystery.

Viper Island: Design Grandiose?

Viper Island: Design Grandiose?

By Zubair Ahmed

In the Expenditure Finance Committee meeting held on 25 Feb 2010, Chief Secretary Vivek Rae had stated that an integrated plan for Viper Island is on the anvil and a consultant is being appointed separately. He had also reiterated that the Yatch Marina would in no way conflict with the integrated plan.
On 1st June 2010, a Pre-bid meeting for Appointment of Project Development Advisor was held at Andaman Bhawan in which a sample of the integrated plan was presented and a grandiose plan unveiled.
In the whole scheme of things, the heritage structures featured nowhere. Whereas in the proposed zoning and activity zoning maps, there were casinos, tree houses, cable car, man-made beaches, dolphinarium, fun zones and giant wheel rides.
In fact, the intention of the ANI Admn was to develop the whole of Viper Island as an Entertainment Hub. And, when protests from various quarters started mounting, the Admn had no option but to show that they were concerned about the heritage structures. They also unexpectedly dropped talking about their outrageous integrated plan for the Island.
And to push the Yacht Marina project ahead, it used all dirty tricks like creating fissure in Local Born Association by highlighting Dr Rohinder Lall as a well wisher of the project. However, the resistance from LBA veteran John Lobo along with others shocked the Admn.
Next, the Administrator tried his typical approach of using his Man Friday, Kuldeep Rai Sharma, Congress President to convince John Lobo to back off, which also did not materialize.


CABLE CAR:  A Cable Car system from a nearby island to the top of Viper Island can be developed. The cable car entry to the island can be the first point of attraction into the islands. The cable cars preferably may be in seating formats to provide all round uninterrupted view of the sylvan surroundings.

MARINA: A Marina will be set up at Viper Island to park the private and public Yachts. The Parking facility of the Yachts will attract people from different countries.

LUXURY RESORTS: Luxury resorts can be developed for people wanting to spend quality time.

ECO RESORTS - TREE HOUSES: Andaman & Nicobar Islands have trees that grow up to an average height of 60-70 ft. Such trees are also present in the Viper Islands (Garjan etc). Eco-tree houses can be built to create a magical ambience and environment in these untamed and untouched natural areas.

CASINO AND ENTERTAINMENT HUB: The main attraction of the Island along with entertainment Hub which may consist of Gaming areas, activity areas, Food Courts, Restaurants etc.

MAN MADE BEACHES: Presently Viper Island has no beaches. A man made beach may to be created for beach side activities like Beach Sports / Water Sports / Sun- Bathing etc

DOLPHIN SHOWS:  Dolphins can be a major attraction and the USP of the Island. The entire Indian Sub- Continent does not have a dolphin show as yet.

FUN ZONE: Giant Wheel, Roller Coasters, etc
The kids and the family zone.

WATER SPORTS: Water Bikes, sails, Water Skiing, Canoes etc.  A necessity at any beach front.




By Zubair Ahmed

As it happened with Buffer Zone and Tsunami Compensation issue, the Viper Island conundrum too seems to be the fall out of another thoughtless move of the Admn, already lying low with dented image locally and nationally. Lack of transparency at every level and an absurd consultation mechanism excluding the genuine stakeholders, the Admn keeps hitting rock bottom with its plans and designs and face criticism from various quarters. And, when damage control exercises fail, it shows it's obstinate and haughty face. However, course-correction is an unheard phrase in this Island territory.
When the ANI Admn came out with a Tourism Policy Document in 2009, it boasted of many ambitious projects and somewhere it was mentioned about a novel venture in its short term action plan - 50-berth Yacht Marina and Development of Viper Island as an Entertainment Hub, retaining its historical ambience.
However, in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Tourism in October 2009, Vivek Rae, Chief Secretary informed that the proposal of 50-unit Yacht Marina at Viper Island has been decided after Feedback Ventures, the consultant conducted surveys in all the probable sites in and around Port Blair. Nowhere in the letter, there is a mention about the remnants of the historical structures and the gallows, which could have become a point of discussion in the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC), where Planning Commission vehemently opposed the project citing various reasons.
The controversy over Viper Island as the suitable site for the Yacht Marina and three-star accommodation is multi-dimensional. A large section of the Island society opposes the proposal citing the historical importance of the Island. Planning Commission felt that the proposal would lead to sub-optimal use of prime public property and the concessionaire may use its foothold to exploit this "valuable" island in an unintended manner. Some political parties allege corruption by the higher ups in the whole deal. Industry experts sense that the tender document and the agreement have enough flaws which would give the Concessionaire sufficient leverage to manipulate the revenue growth. Another section fears that the project will jeopardize the security of the Islands.
And the objections raised by the different agencies don't seem to be baseless.
Nobody opposes a Yacht Marina in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It's the choice of Viper Island, which is the bone of contention for the local inhabitants, who have emotional attachment towards the Island and they expect a sensitive and sensible approach from the Admn.
"The selection of Viper Island by Feedback Ventures, the consultants cannot be a justification to go ahead with the project which will spoil the sanctity of the Island," said Shyam Singh Yadav, General Secretary, Subhash Chandra Press Club, who is leading the protest against the Viper Island Project.
"The Admn has kept everyone in darkness about the historical importance of the Island, and when we started our protest, came out with the State Heritage gimmick," he said.
When the actual proposal took off, the Admn forgot or left out the word "historical ambience" which forced Shyam Singh Yadav to remind both the Administration and Govt of India in June 2010 about the importance and sanctity of Viper Island.
Even after the initiative by the protestors, in the consequent meetings of State Finance Committee (EFC), there was no mention about the historical aspect of Viper Island. It cannot be discounted that the ministries and Planning Commission were kept in total darkness deliberately or inadvertently by the ANI Admn.
Moreover, it went one step ahead and also prepared a proposed zoning, site plan and activity zoning of the Entertainment Hub for the Island, wherein, the historical or heritage perspective was completely missing.
In a pre-bid meeting for appointment of Project Development Adviser (PDA) held on 1st June 2010 at Andaman Bhawan, New Delhi, the presentation given by the Director Tourism unveiled an ambitious plan in front of the prospective bidders. The plan was preposterous with all kinds of wrong elements which could have raised a storm anytime if revealed to the public.
The issue of selling an Island for Re 1/- went viral as soon as Member of Parliament, Bishnu Pada Ray and Rajnath Singh, BJP Leader raised the issue nationally.
Clarifying their stand, ANI Admn said nothing about the Concession Fee, but defended it with the 15% Revenue Share quoted by the Indo-Malaysian Consortium, Reacon- PMM Marina Pvt Ltd.
Half-baked allegations on one hand and an incomprehensible administration on the other hand have already turned the issue into utter chaos. Allegations of financial irregularity, flawed tendering process and kickbacks remain a mystery.

Next Move, Mass Mobilisation: Shyam Singh

Shyam Singh Yadav, General Secretary, Subhash Chandra Press Club is leading the protest against the ambitious project of Yacht Marina and 3-star hotel at historic Viper Island.
As soon as he came to know about the project, he started sending letters to Prime Minister, Home Minister and other dignatories seeking their intervention in stalling the project.
Different political parties like DMK, RJD, TDP, BJP and JDU came out extending their support. Apart from that, members from the civil society and social organizations like John Lobo, Pooran Chand, Gowri Shankar Pandey, Mukeshwar Lall, M A Salim, Jai Narayan Singh, J P Mishra and members from Nicobari community, Henry Samuel and Ahmed Ali too supported the movement.
Member of Parliament Bishnu Pada Ray took the issue at national level and engaged senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh and pitched in Subramanian Swamy, President, Janata Party to take up the issue.
The Dharna which started in front of Secretariat on 5 March 2012 continued till 24 Sept 2012. However, ANI Admn even without informing and issuing a notice removed the entire tent and supporting materials from the site. "I have registered a complaint against this undemocratic move," said Shyam Singh. "Now, we are planning to take the movement to the grassroot level and will turn it into a mass movement," he said.

INTERVIEW: Kuldeep Rai Sharma: The Man Friday

Kuldeep Rai Sharma: The Man Friday

Kuldeep Rai Sharma, President, PCC, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was on a long hiatus after the defeat in the last general elections. A few press notes and routine obituaries were what the people used to get from the party. Breaking the lull, once again Kuldeep Rai Sharma is now in the news everyday with two or three press releases and meetings. But, on the ground, including the party cadre, there is a kind of disconnect which has been haunting the party for sometime. With a long row of ageing leaders and no second line in sight, stagnation is staring at the party. Moreover, Kuldeep's proximity with the Administrator has been a major contention, which is largely exploited by his adversaries.
It is also observed that Congress party is more comfortable with unions and councils in its kitty rather than common man on the ground and the issues that affect them. Both Municipal and Zilla Parishads are governed by Congress and most of the Cooperatives are also under its control. The party and its leaders seem confident to manipulate the Council elections by horse trading. The recently held by-election in Ferrar Gunj was an acid test for the party. With two Panchayats - Bindraban and Ferrargunj in its control and a Congress Samiti Pramukh at Namunagar, the party could have done wonders. But, it lost with a mammoth margin to BJP candidate. A week before the election, Kuldeep Rai Sharma  spoke to The Light of Andamans on various issues.

What was the main cause for your defeat in the last general elections?
In last elections, I got very less time for campaigning as finalization of candidature took long time. And, I had to face a barge of senior leaders, who were not mentally prepared to accept me as a candidate as it was a transitional phase after a long innings by Bhaktaji. Moreover, Bhaktaji and Bishnu came together to defeat me. Even then, I lost with a very low margin.

Bhaktaji is once again active now. What do you think are the prospects for Congress Party in the 2014 general elections?
I am least bothered about it. The party will easily sail through.

Mr G K Vasan wants to see you in Parliament in the next Lok Sabha.
Yes, we will try our best.

The mood of the party cadre on the ground is very downbeat as most of them feel dejected by the State leadership. Why is the party disconnected from grassroot level?
As far as I know there is no disconnect. I get the feedback from the ground through the party channel. There is nothing to worry and we still hold ground.

It is alleged that a caucus around you controls and even guides you and your grass-root level leadership feels alienated from the party?
The group of people around me is sincere and dedicated workers of Congress and has been great support. I get feedback through the units, blocks and districts directly.

Why Congress always takes anti-people stand?
Congress is pro-people and is never against people. We have been raising all important issues concerned with the Islands.

In most of the issues like Buffer Zone, Viper Island Issue and compensation of Tsunami-affected farmers, Congress towed the line of Administration. Why?
It's a wrong assumption. I took the Lieutenant Governor to Baratang to meet the public there. We are against the 5-km Buffer Zone and have requested the Admn to modify it. In tsunami-affected farmers' issue, Congress has always maintained that the land should remain with the farmers.

When you know that signing the Form means surrendering land, why did you direct Congress PRI members to exhort farmers to sign the form and accept the compensation?
There are many farmers who are in dire need of money and I asked them to accept the compensation and later fight to keep their land.

At many points the Administration committed blunders like Buffer Zone. Why didn't Congress take a defiant stand against the Administration and stand with the people?
You know that we do not have an Assembly here and if you ruin your relations with the Administration, you cannot get your works done. We need to have cordial relationship with the Administration.

You decided to avoid public issues fearing that your relationship with the Administrator will get affected?
No, the Lieutenant Governor is a very good person and I have high regards for him. He has been very supportive.

You are very close to the Administrator and can get things done. Why are you not getting the Tsunami famers issue resolved?
We are pursuing the matter, but, the Member of Parliament is creating confusion among people and playing spoilsport.

Kuldeep is accused of favouritism as people feel that election of his father to the post of Chairman, ANSC Bank and nomination of his brother as Councillor in PBMC has dented his image. Your comment.
My father has been the Vice Chairman of the Bank for last nine years. He has great experience and ideas. He was elected to the post and I have no role in it. Implementation of the door delivery of Pension for Old, widows and disabled persons is one major step he initiated. As far as Sudeep Rai Sharma is concerned, most of the council members were first timers and there was a need for an experienced person.

In an all-party meeting convened by Andaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), why did Congress party walk out and go against the Chamber's decision to press for their demands?
ACCI and Congress are two different organizations and can have their own way. I am surprised why Chamber was taking up all issues like a political party.

Most of the issues raised by the Chamber were concerned with the business community - Buffer Zone, Scarcity of Water and Power, Scarcity of Quarry Materials etc.
The quarry owners and workers association were never with the Chamber of Commerce. When the meeting of Chamber was going on, the quarry people were with me. The Chamber had no support from them.

Tamilians seems to be alienated after the quarry explosive seizure case. Are you supporting them to get bail in their case?
On humanitarian grounds, I think they should get bail. However, when the Supreme Court has denied bail to them, what can I do? But, Congress party is in favour of bail for them in the case.

Ferrargunj By-Polls: Referendum Against Congress


Zilla Parishad Member Constituency, Ferrargunj By-Polls
Referendum Against Congress

By Staff Reporter

In the by elections for Zilla Parishad Member, Ferrargunj, Gopal Das of the BJP defeated his nearest rival Cicilia Kujur of the INC by securing 2156 votes as against 1562 votes polled by Cicilia Kujur and 167 votes by the independent candidate Tamilarasan P.
Ferrargunj Zilla Parishad member constituency encompasses Ferrrargunj, Bindraban and Namunaghar Gram Panchayats with a sizeable 6500 electorates. 58% i.e. 3947 electorates exercised their franchise despite inclement weather. Out of the 28 Panchayat wards that constitute this seat Gopal Das comprehensively won 18 Panchayat wards. This constituency has a sizeable population of around 70% Ranchi Community origin and the rest comprising of Bengali, Bhatus, Malayalee, Tamil and other Pre-42 settlers.
Speaking to LoA a veteran Congress leader of the area was aghast with the by-poll result. He was of the opinion that Gopal Das could never have dreamt of such a result. The failure of the Congress Pradesh leadership in addressing the issues of common man has led to the poor showing of the Party. Inspite of a Pramukh and two sitting Pradhans in the Constituency, such a drubbing by the BJP does not augment well for the future of the Congress in the Islands. Lack of foresight and high handedness of the Pradesh leadership was clearly visible at all levels.
More than a BJP gain, it was an anti-Congress statement by the electorate. It was a referendum against the Congress party and no element of anti-incumbency factor was visible in the voting pattern as in all three Panchayats including Namunaghar Gram Panchayat, BJP candidate was far ahead of the Congress candidate.
Addressing the issues of Govt. Servants and leading various Unions do not translate into votes as these constitute only 4 % of the Islands electorate. Daily release of press notes in the administration's mouth piece on pre decided policy issues and taking credit for it do not go unnoticed by common masses as mere publicity stunts.
Local youths of the area who worked tirelessly to defeat the Congress in the areas were ecstatic with the results. This election for them was more of a chance to prove a point to the Congress with its pro-administration leaning that anti-people stand will reflect in the form of votes. Majority of these youths were supporters of the Congress in the last Panchayat elections but owing to large scale corruption and nepotism by the local Congress PRI's on assuming power switched sides. They were disillusioned with the Pradesh Congress leadership who never addressed their genuine issues and failed to look beyond the local PRI's supporting their appetite for loot.
Organizationally too the Congress has failed to manage issues at Ferrargunj. The prestigious Territorial Congress committee seat of Ferrargunj lies with an outsider who has no understanding of the area after rebellion of an elected member in the last PRI elections. Ferrargunj Block unit of the Congress also do not have a block president as the duly elected Block president too rebelled during last PRI elections. This election has dealt a blow to the credibility of Pradesh Congress Chief who represents Bharati Service Cooperative Society, Ferrargunj to the Board of A&N State Cooperative Bank Ltd as its Vice Chairman with his father as Chairman.
Common Ranchi community members when contacted as to why they voted against a candidate of their own community in such large numbers were firm and clear that the Congress has always taken them for a ride on the SC/ST issue and tsunami farmers submerged land issue. The bankruptcy of the party can be made out from the selection of the candidate. It is learnt that the lady who had failed the community on innumerable occasions in the past as their PRI representative was allotted a general seat with tacit support of a technocrat of Zilla Parishad, who has been under suspension for a long period.  There were many deserving candidates but this seat went too cheap sidelining the consensus of the local leadership by the Congress election committee.
Speaking to LoA local BJP leadership credited this win to the tireless campaigning by the local MP and its leadership who are more grounded and accessible to the common man than the opposition leadership. Free flow of liquor and other freebies could not save Congress this time, which is a good omen for the Islands.
This seat being bagged by the BJP gives an ominous sign of things to come in the near future. The top Congress leadership needs to mend their ways and get connected to the grass root masses.

EDITORIAL: Colours and Tastes of India


Colours and Tastes of India

The initiative of the Dept of Culture and Dept of Tourism by packaging the food festival with Maati Ke Rang, organized by East Zone Culture Centre (EZCC) is laudable and noteworthy.
Far far away from the filmy music, karaoke by orchestras and record dances, it was a fresh whiff of air to witness musical ensembles from the North-east presenting songs, music, dance and other performing and non-performing art forms.
The magnificent stage made with eco-friendly materials and decorated with various art forms was a new experiment and excitement for the Islanders. A massive troupe with technical crew had flown from mainland to present the flamboyant show for the Islanders.
Theatrical smoke and fog with orchestrated kinetic lighting enthralled the audience with professional sound effects. The event has provided a learning experience for the authorities, local cultural organizations and artistes.
The Islands need to focus on the native folk arts forms instead of film music which has become a part and parcel of every event, including marriage and funerals. Nowadays, in Pooja seasons, blaring vulgar film music accompanies even the diety, which has become a widely accepted practice. Cultural organizations with support from Dept of Culture need to pitch in and seriously contemplate about promotion of alternative cultural forms.
The Food Festival is another remarkable event which gained huge acceptance since its inception last year. Various communities have put up stalls serving delicious menus from across the country. Nicobari cuisine, this year too is attracting huge crowd.
To make such event more popular and accesible, the Admn can think about announcing two-days holiday, so that school children and other office-goers too can visit such jamboree.
The Island Tourism Festival is the next mega-event, Islanders eagerly wait for. As a whole the ITF needs to be packaged more attractively for the entertainment starved people of the Islands.  There is a lesson to be learnt from our mainland folks how to organise such festivals without the dry and wry APWD plans and designs.
Instead of showcasing the performance or non performance of the government departments over the years and their future plans, the thrust should be on the art and culture content. Otherwise, there will be hardly anything to justify the very title of the festival; Island Tourism.

PAUPER’S LOG: Unalienable Babus


Unalienable Babus
 By Abu Arsh

One of the major issues for a Govt. employee in these Islands is posting from one place of duty to another. The Administration has in place a Transfer policy according to which no official should be allowed to remain in one office for more than 5 years in general and 3 years in case of public dealing and sensitive departments. Its transfer policy also states maintaining an incumbency register which is to be updated every year provided to the Administrative Secretary, Personnel Wing of A & N Administration.
Meet any politician and the major task on their hands is stalling someone's transfer. The poor employee would vouch for anything from providing a monthly cut from their legal/illegal earnings to making sure that the political patron wrests the next Lok sabha seat or the local bodies' seat as the case maybe. Staying closer to home, shopping groceries or other provisions with wife, taking care of Kids education, proper medical attention and even sticking to a chair which yields considerable power, influence or rakes in the moolah is every Govt. employees dream.
Not many are that fortunate to enjoy the above stated privileges and pay dearly at the cost of those who stick to a chair come what may. There are departments specially where there is public dealing that most of these sticklers manage to cling on to their chairs. This is in gross violation of the Administration's transfer policy. Bureaucrats from Delhi come here for short tenures and more often than not end up in some controversy or the other. The controversy could range from faulty interpretation of a Central policy, drafting a draconian law, gross mismanagement of the system to outright corruption. Behind every goof up of the bosses would be a bunch of these very non transferable characters who always believe that the Boss is always right. As the baton is exchanged by the bosses a word is put up by the incumbent about who the trustworthy, resourceful and intelligent bunch of subordinate is. Thus these guys end up being glued to permanent seats of power by his lordship's grace too.
Our non transferable characters are more often than not sons of soil apt at everything right from referring boss to the specialist doctors, organizing parties, guiding on loopholes in the system, liasioning with local political bosses, aiding or abetting  in the pursuit of vices and minting money.  The departments where these non transferable hang about is primarily the Secretariat, District Administrations, heads of the Department offices and other Zonal offices. People in the rank of Personal Assistants, Lower Grade Clerks and even other ranks of technical /non technical officials in local departments are primarily these characters.
These nontransferable characters are shown the door only when they end up crossing all limits. Recent classic example being of one such character who ended up booking flight tickets from the Administration's Quota as per his whims and fancies at the Raj Niwas Secretariat. The District Administration also has a bunch of them who don't require brain mapping as demanded by the Member of Parliament for their bosses but simply needs to be moved out as per the Transfer Policy of the UT Administration.

CHALTE CHALTE: Fast Moving Tourism on Wheels

Fast Moving Tourism on Wheels

Years back, the then Director Tourism of the Administration was sent to China on a study tour on the subject related to tourism development in Islands. The day he left Port Blair for China, his transfer order to Delhi reached Port Blair. However he returned back to Port Blair making himself enriched with many skills that could have helped the tourism sector to take off in the islands. But, the next day he was served with the order. Within a week, the said officer packed his luggage and returned to Delhi to join his new assignment with the Delhi Government. The assignment had nothing to do with any type of tourism, forget about island tourism.
'The officer, if married, would definitely have allowed his wife to sell/throw the study materials and his project work during his study tour to China Tour as garbage', said a local official of the Administration.
"The tourism in the island is still in nascent stage and we have miles to go. We have many proposals in the pipe-line' are statements of Delhite officials during 'Tourism Days' and other related occasions, who come here on 'Picnic-cum-duty tour' for a couple of years or so, sarcastically said a veteran journalist.
"Don't you worry man, the tourism in the islands is marching fast. Now most of such activities are on wheels since they are on Auto-Rickshaws and Omnis and definitely it will reach to its 'DESTINY', commented a 'High Value-Low Volume' activist. 
Three cheers for another government sponsored 'World Tourism Day' in the islands!

Air Subsidy to Stretcher Patients

Air Subsidy to Stretcher Patients

The Lt. Governor, Andaman & Nicobar Islands has accorded approval for implementation of the scheme "Air subsidy to stretcher patients" in this Union Territory with immediate effect.
The scheme has been formulated to help the stretcher patients of the general public (excluding Govt. servants and their dependents) who need air evacuation to mainland for super specialized treatment, not available at GB Pant Hospital, Port Blair. The air subsidy shall be extended to stretcher patient towards the amount of air fare paid/payable by the patient for evacuation from the island, on referral, in excess of the airfare for single seat. In addition subsidy shall also be provided for purchase of bunk class return tickets by ship for patient and the concerned attendant.
Air evacuation will be allowed for patients requiring emergency treatment only, not available in the islands, and which will be certified by concerned Specialist, Medical Superintendent, G B Pant Hospital and the Director of Health Services. No elective surgery cases will be referred by air. Patients will be referred to the Govt/Govt empanelled hospitals only. Air evacuation will not be allowed for follow up treatment.
In case of stretcher patients, Air India charges 6 times basic fares (including one time tax) against offering 9 seats to the patients. In addition, it charges lowest available air fare for each accompanying attendant. Hence, financial assistance under the scheme will be provided for purchase of air fares from Air India.
However, in urgent cases of evacuation by air, when Air India flights/tickets are unavailable, financial assistance would be provided for purchase of air tickets in private airline flights. Presently, private airlines charge 9 basic fares (plus maximum of four times tax) for the patients and up to 03 attendants.