Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Zilla Parishad, South Andaman: Technically Yours, Kuldeep

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Zilla Parishad, South Andaman
Technically Yours, Kuldeep

Abala Sammaddar, the Zilla Parishad member of Vijaynagar constituency, Havelock from the Congress was elected the Adhyaksha, Zilla Parishad, South Andaman for the third year term reserved for women with Balbir Kaur of Campbell Bay as Up-Adhyaksha.
In the South Andaman Zilla Parishad Congress has a strength of 10 members and the BJP has five members out of the total 15 members as on date. Abala Sammaddar of the Congress secured eight members support and Farida Bibi of the BJP secured the support of seven members for the post of Adhyaksha. Two Zilla Parishad members of the Congress cross voted for the BJP. Hunt is on for the two undisciplined Congress members, this may not be such a Herculean task. Though other permutation and combinations are there with both sides cross voting but raking ones brain over it would be waste of time as the report card to the high command at Delhi says all's well.
Zilla Parishad has known to be a bout ring for the technocrats and the politicos. There was a time when an Ex-Adhyaksha ruled the roost for three consecutive terms in the last Zilla Parishad with the blessings of a Technocrat and the political bosses were left cooling their heels helpless. The same game could be smelt here but to no avail as the politicians prevailed this time. Congress in the last PRI elections had seven members with the BJP seven members and one independent in the Zilla Parishad. Baring the first year term when power was shared between the Congress and BJP, the second year saw SS Balakrishnan Nair consolidating the Congress position with three new entrants supporting him eventually.
If not for Balakrishnan's astute management skills Farida Bibi could have pipped Abala Sammaddar to the post and the technocrat could have got his suspension revoked. This could have also made matters a lot easier for the PRI's who are finding hard to proceed ahead by the lack of estimate schedules denied to them by the present crop of technocrats who are no less corrupt. The BJP leadership was at the mercy of the suspended technocrat running their losing game.  

Zilla Parishad, Madhyottar Andaman: Nothing Official About It!

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Zilla Parishad, Madhyottar Andaman
Nothing Official About It!

Madhuri Giri of the Congress from Mayabunder Zilla Parishad Constituency defeated the official Congress nominee Panchavarnum from Nimbutala Zilla Parishad Constituency for the Adhyaksha, Zilla Parishad, North-Middle Andaman garnering support of nine members against six opposing members with one member vote being disqualified.
Srinivasan of the Congress was elected unopposed as Up- Adhyaksh. N-M Andaman Zilla Parishad has 16 members. Madhuri Giri had earlier the fortune of leading the first term as Adhyaksha where as the second term was headed by P Prasad as Adhyaksh. Here the Congress versus Congress game was more of Prasad versus Sony Thomas battle. Prasad is known to be close to the President, Congress rewarded time and again for his outbursts against Bhakta who was on his way out of the Congress when Kuldeep was consolidating his position.
Prasad is known to maintain the same level of aristocracy as his president on his visits to the state or national capital and during routine activities. His tenure was marked with a period of one man ship with the other members cooling their heels while he made hay as the sun shone.
This time, he put his weight behind the inexperienced  Panchavarnum hoping for a proxy rule but Sony Thomas a contractor turned TMC supporter turned Congressmen who had played a important role in Madhuri Giri's first tenure stopped the official Congress bandwagon. Contrary to popular sentiments Kuldeep offered seat to a candidate fully aware of the fact that it'll go the other way, which it did.
Now, there is lot of hue and cry about disciplinary action by the Territorial Congress Committee, the highest local body of the party filled with his sidekicks and kingmakers, but it seems unlikely that Kuldeep would risk it and face a wipe out from North Middle Andaman district. Here too the BJP had no stance to offer with its members switching camp at will.

PBMC: Blood Brothers!

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
PBMC: Blood Brothers!

P. B. Murugan of the Congress has been elevated as the new Chairperson for the third year term of the Council, strangely unopposed. Subsequently M. Arumugam and Indrapal Singh have been elected as Senior Vice Chairman and Junior Vice Chairman of the Council respectively. The first year being reserved for a Lady Chairperson, saw Firdaus Bibi get elected with a little help from a defector of the BJP. The Council originally had nine Congress Councilors, four BJP, two RJD, one TMC, TDP and DMK each.
Congress had gone to polls alone without any ally. Midway through her tenure Firdaus Bibi got a few more supporters in the eighteen member council. Credit for increase in her support strength goes to a nominated councilor Sudeep Rai Sharma who was inducted along with 2 other nominated councilors for adding experience to the bunch of mostly inexperienced Councilors. This, being the rationale put forth by the Congress President in his recent interview to LoA. The second year term saw history being made at the Council as the lady retained her position by virtue of the experienced nominated councilor putting his weight around. First two years of the present council had its fair share of headlines and controversies in the local press. P.B. Murugan had a mild cardiac stroke prior to becoming the first citizen of Port Blair city and could be thanking his stars for getting the top spot at the council.
The experience imparting nominated councilor coupled with his blood ties with the Congress Supremo had other designs for the third year, but by virtue of his high-handedness for the last two terms lost out to the original Congress, lead by the more experienced K. Ganeshan and M. Arumugam. However, these two gentlemen also paid in terms of losing the coveted post for their mini rebellion which ultimately went to a more acceptable P.B. Murugan proposed by the PCC President as a forced compromise to appease the rebels, predominantly of a community which does not trust Kuldeep after the quarry exploits and to waive off any vindictive action by the new Chairman on the misappropriation of Sudeep Rai Sharma controlled Firdaus Bibi regime. This time around in a no holds bar tussle it was the nominated councilor versus the rest, even the BJP, RJD and DMK supported the original Congress. Election to the chair of the sub-committees in the Council saw original Congress councilors leading the committees. The experience imparting nominated councilor along with his four new Congress councilors including the ex two consecutive terms Chairperson, first year BJP defector, a TMC defector and a TDP fence sitter were left nursing the inflated ego of the experienced nominated councilor. Post election to the sub committees saw some altercation at Gandhi Bhavan between the new Congress group led by Sudeep and the State Congress leadership sans the PCC president who luckily was on a private visit to Havelock after the swearing in ceremony of Adhyaksha, Zilla Parishad South Andaman. Going by the track record of the Sudeep Rai Sharma, the Congress supremo Kuldeep Rai Sharma has his hands full not from the opposition but his own family and partymen at PBMC.

Congress V/s Congress

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Congress V/s Congress

Is there a need for all the parties in the Islands to unite and fight against the mammoth Congress? The internecine battles inside the century-old party have already started to manifest its ugly face. The elections to the Local Self Government bodies was the arena, where blood brothers, and khadi-clad Congressmen - New and Old - were engaged in using all tricks of guerilla warfare against each other. The finishing-point of the race of  Congresses inside the Congress will be interesting to watch when it reaches 2014.

By Staff Reporter

In all public meetings or announcements by the opposition parties both small and big of late, opposition speakers have a field day criticizing the Congress Chief Kuldeep Rai Sharma, his family and his relationship with the Administrator. Recent elections to the Chair of Municipal Council and the two Zilla Parishads saw three great battles; one was Kuldeep versus Sudeep at PBMC, second was Kuldeep versus an under suspension technocrat at Zilla Parishad, South Andaman and thirdly Kuldeep versus his own Sony Thomas (a recent TMC import to Congress) at  Zilla Parishad, Middle-North Andaman. This is not the time to be in Kuldeep's shoes in Island's politics. 
Bodies of local self governance are the only institutions wherein decisions for development are made by elected representatives of people. Democratic set up in the Islands has a lone Member of Parliament who if not from the ruling party at the centre is as good as a lame duck. The present MP's histrionics have not yielded any good for the Islanders as routine matters were put into inordinate delays for rubbing the Bureaucrats' egos on and off. In an Administrative set up that is controlled by outside bureaucrats; people have great expectations from Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies for meeting their aspirations.
Congress for the majority of the island's local self governance history has controlled these institutions baring a few years when the opposition controlled it. Once in the past the opposition was shunted out of power midway by the most popular Lt. Governor of the Islands to date, when it was christened a Pradesh Parishad. This Parishad never saw light of the day again. Secondly the 'Bharatiya Janata Party -the Party with a difference' and its allies when at the helm in the rearranged institutions of self governance -the Zilla Parishad and the Municipal Council were no good either with large scale corruption and having made a few millionaires of its own.
Poor islanders have been mute spectators to the large scale misappropriation of public exchequer by our representatives since inception of these institutions. To facilitate equitable share of this misappropriation a novel concept was designed. For the entire tenure of these institutions change of guard takes place annually, as to who will head them as Chairperson or Adhyaksh/Adhyaksha as the case maybe. This is the time when our elected representatives have a field day. Horse trading is the norm and cash plays a big role. The person who bags the coveted post spends a lot to get there and once there, goes all out to recover his investment plus a lot more for eternity.
Congress by virtue of its Government at Centre and commanding the attention of the local bureaucrats has an easier task to lure the fence sitters and stake claim to control these bodies. Last local bodies elections had not given Congress absolute majority but it still controls the PBMC and the two Zilla Parishads. Congress has a history of being a party which is top heavy and revolves around a few individuals calling all the shots. Manoranjan Bhakta's reign as an MP saw the party function without any major hiccups. There was space for a few in Bhakta's loyalist who would run the party, hold various positions and even make money locally. Bhakta meanwhile was a national player, built his empire around his non-resident Islanders- daughters, son-in-laws and grandkids in the mainland from the big stakeholders venturing in the Islands for business.
Kuldeep Rai Sharma as fate would have had it, dethroned Bhakta and got the party on a platter when Bhakta formed the Trinamool Congress. Political power in the islands or for that matter the whole country revolves around money to be misappropriated from various democratic institutions of power. If one happens to have enough money this would suffice to tilt the scales in your favour in any election is a popular notion. As an aspiring unemployed educated Island youth looking for a vocation, Kuldeep found it easy to dabble into politics as he was the son of a rich Government servant who was always in the news for wrong reasons. Congress has a long history of king makers and sidekicks of the party's main leaders; right from Sardar Nechal Singh Chawla to date. These sidekicks switched sides for Kuldeep especially when an ageing Bhakta got disconnected with the Islanders with failing health and made some foolish decisions of his own. These very bunches of sidekicks have brought about the downfall of many great Congress leaders and now its Kuldeep's turn. Kuldeep has the distinction of being an autocrat like his predecessors in the party with the only exception being he has to have a finger in every pie and eat it too. There's no room for others. All the resources and the positions are to go to him or his immediate family. Certain chain of events in the past six years with the reign of the present Lt. Governor has made matters worse for him. He has been branded anti to certain communities and no matter how hard he tries this outlook of those communities will not change. Kuldeep has failed to find a balance in his approach towards all communities and the prime reason being his greed for absolute power without yielding any space for others. Dissidences in the party are brewing and the results are for all to see in bodies of local self governance. 2014 has a bleak future for the Congress in the Islands as its leadership is plagued with the same disease that is crippling the Central leadership- 'Corruption, directionless policies and disconnect with the grass roots cadres'. Amidst the recent swearing in ceremonies of our new VIPs in institutions of local self governance, it is interesting to chart the turn of events, where it was the Congress leadership who could only wait for events to unfold on its own merit rather than do anything as was the case with the opposition parties too.

EDITORIAL: Bon Voyage Seshasai

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Bon Voyage Seshasai

Capt. Seshasai Director Shipping Services had a graceful exit from the Islands with loads of disgraceful accomplishments to his credit. He had inherited everything Capt Paul James left, including his corrupt practices. But, Seshasai was of a different league altogether. He went one step ahead, tweaked and reinvented better tactics. And as a master of anecdotes, he could easily floor anyone with his countless jibes on everyone and everything.
When Captain Seshasai joined the Shipping Directorate, he was one of the three Directors and assigned Operations and Maintenance. Anyway, he was not keen to continue as 'one of the Directors' and had told LOA at that time that without complete control, he would not be in a position to bring any positive change to the department. He was given complete control as the whole and sole Director. Like any tenderfoot, he too showed all idiosyncrasies in the initial period. In boiler suit, he was found in the dockyard early mornings as a timekeeper. By the time, he could understand the work culture of his employees; he had obviously learnt the ways to consolidate his grip on the cash-rich department. With a large fleet of sick vessels, unable to decommission or make operational, he found it a tough go. New vessels joined, but could not cover the demand. The onus once again fell on the whole and sole director to explain. He had by now learnt how to dodge the complaints. Technically, he would try to convince or ultimately confuse those who went to him with complaints. It was a cakewalk for him to charm the gullible Secretary Shipping and even the Chief Secretary.
The Shipping sector touched the lowest ebb, with stars too failing in favour of the captain. Three ships which he did not place order joined the fleet during his tenure and all three of it failed to sail and remained tethered for more than 4 years. It gave him another weapon to blame his predecessors.
Capt Seshasai had made lots of demands and promises to bring sanity to the department But, his hollow promises failed miserably, with the services severely hitting rock bottom. And, in the meantime, corruption touched another level with his sordid greed increasing day after day.
After a series of Vigilance and CBI raids, glaring instances of corruption came to the fore. From crankshafts, gearboxes, navigational equipments and corruption in everything, the department had turned into a black hole of corruption.
But, it is unfortunate that the Admn instead of keeping him tethered to the Islands and making him pay for the corrupt deeds, he was given a soft kick with repatriation to his parent organization. The safe passage to Capt Seshasai shows the resolve of the Admn in tackling corruption. It was not the efforts of the Admn, but the tireless efforts of a few who had to approach court to get the big fish in the net. Unluckily, the fish got a free and safe passage.

United Front for Assembly

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
United Front for Assembly

By Staff Reporter

Every political party nurtures the aspiration to have a democratic setup in the Islands. But, sense never prevailed among the top parties to come together on a common platform and assert for it. Very recently, tired of the bureaucratic labyrinth and autocratic decisions of a Lieutenant Governor with Defence background and without administrative skills, an all-party delegation met the President of India and other national political leaders and submitted memorandum demanding a Legislative Assembly for the Islands. The all-party delegation has strongly demanded an urgent solution to change the present system of Administration as self-governance is their basic right.
More than six political parties including BJP, CPM, TMC, RJD, TDP, DMK and AIADMK have come together with only Congress party remaining out of the Front very prominently.
Addressing the media, KG Das, State Secretary, CPIM said that they have demanded Assembly for the Islands. When asked about exclusion of Congress Party from the front, he clarified that Assembly is part of Congress agenda, but are unwilling to join the front or agitation to achieve it. "I feel that Congress too will take a step towards it," he said.
When asked about the opposition of Local Born Association for an Assembly, KG Das said that no one can oppose Statehood on the basis of demographic equations. Citing an example from North-East, he said that the local populations in many states are very low, but it cannot stop them having a democratic and participatory self governance system. "This is a colonial mindset trying to strangle the aspirations of the Islanders," he said.
Commenting on the attitude of the Lieutenant Governor, he said that the Administrator's dictatorial approach without any consultation process or accessibility has effected the development of the Islands badly. "How can an Administrator allow Raj Niwas to be used as a Party office?" he asked.
"We have also demanded for immediate call back of the Administrator, who has exceeded his tenure by 3 years," Das added.
Manoranjan Bhakta, who made a comeback with joining the Front said that this is a new journey with all parties coming together.
Clarifying the agenda of the front, Bhakta said that this is a common platform for Assembly and not an electoral alliance to fight elections.
In the memorandum submitted to the President, it is alleged that for the last ten years, no major development has taken place in the Islands. The Lieutenant Governor, who is about to complete two-terms, is not working keeping the interest of the public. The dictatorial attitude towards general public, politicians, elected representatives and PRI members have jeopardized the entire economic development of these Islands, stated the memorandum.
The All-Party delegation also rued the abolishment of the 30-member Andaman and Nicobar Pradesh Parishad with five Councilors of the rank and status of Deputy State Minister, which was sanctioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs and inaugurated on 20th June 1981 by State Home Minister Yogendra Makhwana. In his message, greeting the people of these Islands, he had said, "The Inauguration of this State Counci marks the dawn of a new era in the history of this Union Territory. The active participation of the people in the affairs of the State is the backbone of democracy. The need for greater association of the local people in the Administration of this Territory has been felt ever since independence." He had also said that the Pradesh Council is a forerunner to this process to complete democratic decentralization. As a stepping stone, the Council provides opportunity to the elected representatives and the officials to gain experience in vital areas of development and policy making. From now on the elected representatives of the people are going to sit together and advice the Government in matters of administration."
The memorandum said that the Council was sanctioned to the Islanders as a triial to form a Legislative Assembly in the near future. However, this State Council had functioned only for ten years and consequent to the formation of the Zilla Parishad for the South Andaman District, ANI Admn abolished the 30-member Council without consulting the political parties. The unilateral decision of the Admn in winding up the Pradesh Council
Citing many anti-people notifications and regulations without any consultation, the all-party delegation has urgently demanded the need for a democratic setup for the Union Territory for speedy development on the same pattern of Pondicherry.
Prominent leaders of all parties including Marudavanan, DMK, P R Ganesh, RJD, and R Mohan, BJP too attended the Press Meet. They informed that the All-Party Front will organize a token dharna and awareness programmes throughout the Islands to garner support for the cause of Assembly.

chalte | CHALTE: Vadra-What A Big Deal In It!

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
chalte | CHALTE
Vadra-What A Big Deal In It!

Robert Vadra, the poor fellow has unnecessary became target of controversy, obviously for no fault of him. However, the only blunder he committed is to marry in a family of rulers. For this again, he should not be blamed since the 'pairs' is made in heaven. The country owes many obligations to the family and, so, to Robert too. What's a big deal in it?" exclaimed he after finishing his fifth round of 'Herculese XXX' in a local bar here.
"A DANICS officer after getting his posting order to Andamans approached Andaman Office in Delhi to have some first-hand information about the facilities available in the islands. His queries included: Good school existed? , Proper bus services? , 2BHK flat/house on rent? , Helping hand for Jharu-Phoncha? etc. The answering personnel, when came to know about the status of the DANICS officer, simply said him not to worry but to inform him the date and flight of reaching Port Blair", the drunken person continued. Meanwhile, some curious drunkards surrounded him and one of them offered him the sixth peg.
He continued, "The officer, gentleman to the core, landed at the Port Blair airport to be received by local official here. A car was waiting to escort him while another car with other personnel was there to take care of his baggage. The arriving Officer should not wait and take pain to collect his luggage! He was driven to the posh Govt. guest house and the car was left behind for his use to go to Secretariat to report for his duty and also otherwise. And thus before he became a part of the Andaman government, he became small 'Lord'. In fact, some senior officer had only informed the arrival of the official from Delhi and the rest 'buttering' and 'flirting' part was taken care by us. Later, he was provided with a bungalow, chauffeur driven car, gardener, maid servant (on govt. expense) and many other privileges. Our junior level officials with their folded hands exhausted all they had expecting some favour from the senior officer as well as from the new arrival. The Delhite official did away with his gentlemanship. This is human. If one showers privileges, favour and facility to other, can never be termed as unwarranted in favour of the later"
"So is with Vadra. He might not have desired but is showered favours because of his status by his friends and others who expect favour from the sources Vadra is surrounded by. And fortunately or unfortunately his 'friends' are part of Government in Position, so, a bone of contention for Opposition", he concluded with his seventh peg.

Durga Puja: Yesteryears

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Durga Puja: Yesteryears

By Basudev Dass

Secularism, we don't preach but practice,' said a proud islander to a local tourist at Rajghat in New Delhi while paying tributes to Gandhiji. 'Come October and visit Andamans to enjoy Durga Puja not only for entertainment but to realise universal brotherhood and only brotherhood without any religious abhorrence', said he and added, "And why should it not be. The seed of this festival was sown by the 'freedom fighters' and 'political prisoners' along with other convicts deported to the infamous Cellular Jail from all parts of the Country. It was they who celebrated the first 'Durga Puja' inside the high-rise bricked walls of the 'Cells beyond Cells'.
Irrespective of the fact what religion they practiced, whether atheist or theist, the states they belonged to, the language they spoke, the rituals and culture they followed; they registered their participation in the Puja in the year 1934. The celebration of this was not alone a ritual for them but an opportunity to mark a symbolic triumph over the British tyranny and exhibition of supremacy over the foreign clout. The 46-days 'Hunger Strike' observed by the 'Heroes' of the 'Freedom Struggle' inside the jail ended on 26th June 1933. Though three of many became martyr for the cause, the prisoners were extended substantial relief including, reading and writing materials, significant improvement in living standard with better food, bed, games facilities, reduced working hours and allowance of following religious rituals.
In his book 'In Andamans - The Indian Bastille'Bejoy Kumar Sinha, a well known revolutionary and a close associate of Sardar Bhagat Singh, tried along-with Bhagat Singh in Lahore Conspiracy Case was sentenced to 'Saza-e-Kalapani' in Cellular Jail in 1933 has said, "Durga Puja had approached and we therefore readily seized the opportunity as an occasion for having a grand festival, rich in it round of amusements and other social features".
A five-day festival, each day having its own rituals, was not a matter of joke in those days that too for prisoners under the foreign yoke staying inside the 'Cells beyond Cells'. But who could stop their indomitable courage, enthusiasm and determination who had already sacrificed everything including themselves for the cause of motherland!
Meetings were held, committees were formed and programmes for Puja as well as amusements were finalized. It had puja committee, amusement committee, reception committee, stores committee, kitchen committee etc. Everyone was given task as per their capability It was a situation where each worked as a team presenting their individual expertise and dedication.
"We formed our Drama Committee that included among its members, coach, manager, electrical engineers, prompter, technical director, music master, in short, the complete troupe of a drama company. For scenes we collected a large number of our bed-sheets and stitched them together. Our painter comrades by their day and night labour transformed them into scenes far better than what one ordinarily finds in amateur drama club of our small towns. Wings were also painted. Our artistes were so successful in their enterprise that they earned universal praise. One local high official even expressed his desire to purchase one of the scenes".
Envisage the situation where even the people outside the jail were unable to gather items of their daily needs, how could the prisoners, that too under the foreign command, manage the required items of erecting the deity, the bamboos, earth and husk for the structure, paints for colour, apparels and ornaments for the image, items to perform the rituals and above all, a priest to conduct the puja during all the five days. But nothing could stop them and the first Durga Puja in the islands was celebrated by the prisoners facing the challenges of physical approval but mental disapproval of the British rulers inside the Jail made by them to 'tame the freedom loving lions'.
Sinha concludes about Puja, "After a crowded programme of five days our Puja was over. We had enjoyed the festival more than we expected. We now craved for a change. .......The old order was changing yielding place to new."
Time and tide waited for none. 12 years had passed. Political prisoners had left for mainland. Even people in the islands had started smelling the fragrance of freedom which was not far. NK Patterson was the British Chief Commissioner of the A&N Islands. Mihir Kumar Sanyal (English pronounced him as Sandal) had joined the then Marine department as Harbour Master and Assistant Engineer (Marine) on November 30, 1945. The very next year in 1946, Sanyal himself made the image of Durga and her accomplices at his residence at Marine Hill and conducted the Puja. And the lone Puja continued there.
"I was a student of 2nd standard in School Line Primary School and would walk to my school from the hilltop residence at Dairyfarm. Since walking was not a problem, I with my three elder brothers would walk to 'Sandal Saab ka Durga Puja' at Marine Hill on Asthami and Navami day of the Puja to have Khichdi Prasad as well as visiting the Mela at Marine Ground (now the Marine Recreation Club and the Mohanpura School up to private bus-stand premises)". This can be termed as the older form of the present 'Island Tourism Festival'. It might have much lesser charm and modern activities then the present ITF but, had the 'heart full of emotion and concern for each other'. The Mela comprised of 'Pashu Mela' (Animal fair) too. Apart from stalls of exhibition, there existed fancy dress competition, sports and games also during all five days of celebration. People would come to Port Blair from distant villages on bullock carts. Even devotees from islands like Havelock, Rangat etc. would come days before and would stay with friends, relatives and even as guests with people in Port Blair Since then the islands witnessed Durga Puja uninterrupted.
Till 1960 only one Puja at Marine Hill was performed followed by the second Puja at Haddo in 1962. This Puja was later shifted to Atul Smriti Samity in 1965, it is said (to some, the year is 1964). The 1949 colonization Scheme of Indian Government saw many Bengalese settled in different islands and as a result they too started conducting Durga Puja. Havelock was the first outer island that witnessed this Puja and the deity was made at the Marine Hill Durga Puja premises and was transported to Havelock by the tug boat 'Moti'. While describing the event, a few names other than Mr. and Mrs. Sanyal needs be mentioned among many others. They are Mintu Biswas, Manabendra Chaki, KN Adhikari, Manik Sarkar, Dilbar Hussain etc. Later when APWD too organized Durga Puja Executive Engineer KP Mohinuddin was the chief organizer of the first Puja. M Chaki, Mintu Biswas, Sardanand, Jagdish Narayan etc. were the main actors to start and continue Puja at Junglighat. The organizing committees till now do not harvest any religious differences and responsibilities are given and accepted according to one's ability.
But now counting of Puja-Pandals in and around Port Blair as well as in different islands is becoming difficult. From Diglipur to Campbell Bay including tribal areas, the Puja is celebrated. Followers of any religion will participate in the festival as if it is their own. Ismail would not compromise without new pant and shirt to visit pandal on one hand while Samuel is intolerable without the pair of a new branded shoe. And all these demands are met by the parents happily since the celebration is a Island Festival as a whole.
However, with the advent of modern facilities, the emotion and involvement is fast annihilating instead exhibition of show and competition with involvement of money and politics are making its way. The Budget of a Puja varies between Rs 5 to 12 lakhs and Committees are formed with senior members of various political parties. In earlier days, rice, necessary commodities and vegetables would form part of donation. Now all the activities are becoming highly professional and commercial, right from preparation of idol, Prasad, reception, decoration, ritual and also immersion. The emotional involvement is fast receding and days are not far that this Island Festival will also become an attraction of pomp and grandeur alone as happening in other part of India.  

PAUPER’S LOG: Mango People in Banana Republic

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Mango People in Banana Republic

By Abu Arsh

When the First Son-in-Law of the Nation -Robert Vadra posted these remarks on his facebook status message, it created a lot of furore in the political circles over reference to the Aam Aadmi as Mango People. Some of the recent decisions of the UPA-II government have made these remarks sound true. Politicians do consider us nothing more than that and we do live in a Banana Republic. As and when new declarations are made by the Government the Aam Aadmi is made to run from pillar to post just to meet his basic requirements all over again.
The most recent lifting of subsidies on LPG and limiting it to 6 cylinders per family per year which fortunately got increased to 9 cylinders by our Administrator like in the Congress ruled states has set us all in a spin. Household budgets have gone haywire with constant and periodic increase in fuel prices and essential commodities. Our islands are known to pay the brunt for these issues as we import every essential commodity from mainland at already exorbitant prices.
Coupled with these the harassment meted out to the Aam Aadmi is many fold. The distributors of LPG are having a field day with the amount of hassles a LPG subscriber has to go through in getting their connections re-verified in order to avoid duplicity. Forms are to be filled again. Mile long queues are formed braving the heat and the rain with people trampling over each other. There is a mad rush where joint families are on the verge of being divided by separating the ration cards of sons and daughters from their parents in order to avail an extra connection. Another long queue awaits us at the Civil Supplies Department enabling us to separate from our parents to avail an LPG connection. If the government can go about creating such new exercises where the misery of Mango people never ends, why can't it have a simpler method of ascertaining the genuine connections rather same old forms and queues? There have been half a dozen multimillion rupees exercises by the Govt. of India as in the case of NPR's and Aadhars bothering us no end time and again. These exercises should have taken care of such information which can be updated.
The LPG story has made the black marketers have a field day too. If one has the money procuring a cylinder without any document is as easy as it comes. The market for a LPG cylinder in the black market post lifting of cap on subsidy scenario has made a quantum leap from Rs 650 to Rs 1300. The major distributors of LPG in the Islands have staffs who are masters of this trade since ages and there is no fuss involved here except extra cash. Some of the booking procedures if it involves standing in long queues to book a cylinder would as well make the above proposition more lucrative to a consumer as its door delivered.
Administration in its endeavour should make arrangements for processes which are simpler and less complicated; it also should not be repetitive and less time consuming. Further more if the Govts are concerned about preventing duplicity and fake connections it should also stop all pilferages and black marketing by hoarders.  

Tillangchang: No Entry for Missiles

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
No Entry for Missiles

Photo Credit: Manish Chandy
A proposal of Indian Navy received in the MOEF for consideration of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), seeking recommendation for use of 2m x 2m area within Tillangchong Wild Life Sanctuary, A & N Islands, for erection of a structure as target for practice missiles from sub marines, for 7 to 10 days in a year has been turned down.
In the deliberations on the issue in 25th Standing Committee meeting, the matter was extensively discussed and several members expressed their strong opposition to the proposal. Representative of the Indian Navy made a very persuasive presentation of the importance of the project.
Accordingly it was recommended that the proposal for use of forest land for installation of a structure as target for use of the practice versions of the missiles in the Sanctuary cannot be permitted. The proponent, Indian Navy, was requested to identify alternate locations, where high conservation values of this nature are not at stake, for ensuring the defence preparedness and security of the country.
The area is notified as a Wild Life Sanctuary in 1985. The Island is about 15 km long and 1 km in width, with a total area of 16.83 sq km. The island supports tropical evergreen vegetation.
The proposal was considered in the 23rd meeting held on 14th October 2011 wherein a site inspection was prescribed and entrusted to Dr A Rahmani, Member, along with the Chief Wildlife Warden, A & N Islands, for submitting a report to the Committee. Site inspection was carried out by Dr Rahamani on February 12, 2012, along with the representatives of A & N Forest Department and Indian Navy. Dr Rahmani reported that the area is important for presence of the endemic Nicobar Megapode, Megapodius nicobariensis nicobariensis, a sub species of the Nicobar Megapode, occurring on seven islands of the Nancowry group. The population of this sub species has declined to less than 200 from above 2000 breeding pairs in 1990s and Tillangchong is the only island holding the safest population of the sub species. He also reported presence of a few other endemic species in the area like Nicobar Bulbul, Nicobar Sparrowhawk, Coconut crab etc. The Island is considered sacred by the Nicobarese communities and hunting of birds is not allowed. They had expressed their opinion against the proposal of the Navy. Dr Rahmani recommended that the proposal should not be recommended due to the unique status of this habitat, and potential destruction of the habitat in the nearby area in case of misfire. The report was considered in the 25th meeting held on 13th June 2012. In the meeting it was generally felt that the area, being among the last remaining habitats of an endemic bird, must be preserved. In the meeting, was also considered to permit one pilot testing to understand the impact.
Subsequently several representations and more information were received in the Ministry related to the conservation value of the island. It is indicated that the proposed missile testing is likely to have highly damaging consequences on the ecosystem including the endemic species.

IDA - Whats the Agenda?

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
IDA - Whats the Agenda?

The Island Development Authority was not always a directionless, uninspired, reluctant body that survived for survivals sake. Under Rajiv Gandhi it was a dynamic mechanism to usher the Island territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep into an era of balanced prosperity, where development and environment would compliment each other rather than compete.
Next IDA meet is  on 17 Oct 2012 and the Islanders are as usual kept in darkness about the agenda. Why can't the Admn publish the agenda of the IDA meeting and seek the suggestions of the stakeholders? Subjects chosen by the Bureaucrats and discussed in Delhi with a single MP representing the Islands is the fate of the Islanders. The Member of Parliament will have a long list of populist agenda for the IDA.
It was the IDA that had raised environmental concerns long before the NGOs and the courts got into the act. It was the IDA that had mooted the idea of introducing the Inner Line Permit System to keep a check on the influx of population. The issue of identity cards to all the islanders was also its recommendation. Sustainable development, pollution free industry, true economic development were a few concerns that the first IDA meeting addressed with all sincerity.
Other than a few insignificant things here and there no substantial objective has been fulfilled. There is no clue whether the studies as envisaged by the IDA decisions were ever conducted and if so, what were the findings.
There were path breaking decisions on influx, carrying capacity of the islands, exploitation of marine resources, tribal rights and other developmental issue. But those always remained tied up in official files of the Planning Commission and the concerned ministries.
As far as public knowledge goes nothing has been done on any of the decisions. At least nothing has come of the files on to the ground. The people of A&N Islands and Lakshadweep are waiting to see if the next IDA follows the path shown by Rajiv Gandhi or degenerates into another inanity.
Over the years, it had turned into a ritual to hold a perfunctory meeting in difference to the wishes and memories of late Rajiv Gandhi and consign the deliberations to the dustbin as soon as the meeting is over.
All said and done, IDA provides the administration and the Member of Parliament to put up their agenda before the powerful body for consideration. And the Islanders never get to see the agenda or the minutes of the meeting. Why such an iron curtain between the Admn and the Islanders?
But both the administration and the MP have consistently failed to make use of the powerful forum to extract major concessions for the islands. There is no reason why it should be any different this time!

Elephant Tusk: Bone of Contention

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Elephant Tusk: Bone of Contention

By Zubair Ahmed

The tussle over the "tusks" seized by the police seems to have come to an end with the Divisional Forest Officer, Mayabunder Division stating in a press note that the contraband seized are not elephant tusks.
"A wildlife offence in respect of elephant tusk (as claimed by police) case has been detected by the Central Crime Station, Port Blair and was handed over to the Range Officer Mayabunder on Sept. 30 for taking further action. On the same day, the Range Officer, Mayabunder intimated about the seizure of property to the CJM Court Mayabunder. The Court registered a Criminal Case against the offence. Meanwhile, the samples seized were sent to Sr. Veterinary Officer, Webi, Mayabunder for its analysis. The Senior Veterinary Officer, Veterinary Hospital, Webi has reported that the sample produced is not ivory.  The sample appears as bone and not the tusk of an Elephant." The press note said.
As per the release, the case is under investigation and further necessary action will be taken as per the provision of the law.
Subsequent to the press note issued by the Andaman and Nicobar Police on seizure of elephant tusks worth Rs 1.70 crores and the detention of four persons of Diglipur, an implicit rift had developed with forest department unwilling to accept the police version unless a lab test is performed to certify whether the seized contraband is elephant tusk or not.
"As far as the preliminary report, we are convinced that it's not elephant tusk. However, to get a scientific opinion about it we have sent it to Wildlife Institute of India," said Shashi Kumar, PCCF and Chief Wildlife Warden speaking to The Light of Andamans.
Divisional Forest Officer, Mayabunder Division had echoed same statement soon after the incident. He had told LoA that they are no experts and the seized materials needs to be sent for a lab test. However, unofficially many forest officials reiterated that the material did not look like elephant tusks but bones of some marine mammal.
The Police team, who seized the contraband, preliminarily went with the version of the detainees, who claimed it to be elephant tusk and also had a story to tell how they procured it. They even put a value of about Rs 4 lakhs per kg.
The press note issued by the police had said that the police party had recovered 3 pieces of elephant tusks measuring - 1st piece length -2.5 meter weight 21.800 Kg, 2nd piece length 1.5 meter weight -15.200 Kgs and 3rd piece length -86 cm weight 5.500 kg, total weight - 42.500 Kgs from the possession of four persons namely Mr. Probir Kumar Bala R/o Subashgram, Mrs. Seema Halder R/o Subashgram, Mr. Sanjay Gain R/o Laxmipur and Mr. Ratan Biswas R/o Radhanagar.
The issue became controversial when police published the value of the seized tusks to be around Rs 1.72 crores at Rs 4 lakhs per kg based on the disclosure of the detained persons. It is felt that the police department showed haste in declaring the seized material as elephant tusk and even went one step ahead and put a value to it.
"When an elephant with tusks is available for Rs 14-15 Lakhs, who will buy only tusks for Rs 1.7 crores?" asks a Range Officer.
The police team after formalities had handed over the recovered properties along with detained persons to Range Officer cum Assistant Wild Life Warden, Mayabunder Range on 30 Sept 2012 for further action.
"There are chances that the detection or seizure by the police might be wrong. It was the duty of the Forest Dept to further the investigation. How did the Forest Dept arrest the detained persons, if they were uncertain about the seized materials," asks a Police Officer.
"Why did the police hurriedly issue a press note without checking the facts?' countered a Forest official who doesn't want to be named.
The Forest Dept without any proper enquiry or investigation had arrested the persons and even presented them in court and two of them came out on bail, which once again brewed suspicion. It was widely alleged in the media as well as on discussion groups that Forest Dept is acting flippant and is showing slightest interest in the case.
It is also observed that the Forest Department could have out rightly denied that its not elephant tusk which could have embarrassed the Police Dept. To get away unscathed, it might have sent the contraband to Wildlife Institute of India.
One of the reasons why Forest Dept is on back foot is their dismal performance in detecting wildlife and forest crimes in the Islands. In majority of the cases, it is police department which detect the cases and hand it over to Forest Dept. Further, often the culprits are not apprehended by the Forest Dept. They just seize the materials.
A couple of months ago, a dinghie with two live deer and venison was seized at Wright Myo creek by the Forest Dept. The Dinghie has a registration number, but the Dept is yet to trace the culprits.
Now, Dept of E&F has constituted a wildlife protection squad in order to address wildlife & forests related offences under the overall In-charge of Ayyub Hassan, ACF (WL). The squad will be operational on 24 hrs basis and would liaise with concerned authorities for prompt action. There is no dearth of forest offences in the Islands with timber scarcely available from the Govt-run mills.
Elephant tusk or whale bone, the debate might still continue till the report from Wildlife Institute of India arrives. However, police is still not discounting the version they could manage to get from the detainees, who had told the police that an elephant was killed by them at Diglipur and the head taken to Landfall Island to decompose to get the tusk intact without any damage. And, a senior police officer accepted that it was premature to arrive at the figure of Rs 1.72 crores. "We do not want to go for a clash with the Forest Dept on this issue. Let the report come and things will become clear," he said.
Till then its field day for animal rights activists and journalists to raise a finger against those environmentalists, who proposes relocation or culling of the elephants from Interview Island, where the feral elephants have done extensive damage to the forest ecology. The debate now actively going on in various forums about introduced, invasive and feral species is yet to catch up with the Islanders.

Cabinet Approval Not Sought for Viper Project

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012

Cabinet Approval Not Sought for Viper Project

By Staff Reporter

On 28 March 2011, before the Viper Yacht Marina and 30-room accommodation agreement was signed, there existed an office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Finance, which categorically stated that approval of Union Cabinet for sale or long term lease of land belonging to the Government is required. This Order amends the Office Memorandum dated 25 June 2010 reiterating the provisions of Rules 28 and 278 of GFR 2005, which makes express approval of Finance Ministry essential for sale, lease of Govt assets or resources and makes the approval of the Cabinet in each case of sale or long lease of land mandatory.
In the Viper Project, the ANI Admn is learnt to have not sought the approval of the Cabinet and has ignored the Memorandum and given the land for long lease to the Reacon-PMM Marina consortium, in clear violation of the General Finance Rules.
In the Office Memorandum issued by the Ministry with the approval of the Finance Secretary, it clearly states that instances of violations have come to the notice of the government where land in possession and control of the government is sought to be alienated through means such as sale, lease and that it has been observed that the value of the land has increased tremendously, especially during last one or two decades. In this context, Cabinet Secretariat has informed that a policy with regard to transfer or alienation of land held by the Government or statutory authorities etc is being framed by the Government and that the Prime Minister has approved that in the meanwhile all the Ministries/Departments would seek specific approval of the Cabinet in each case of sale or long term lease of land belonging to the Government.
In a correspondence to the PPP Division of the Consultant, Satish Mathur, Secretary Tourism had clearly mentioned that the proposal does not attract the provisions of Policy on PPP mode and had sought them to ignore it.
However, overlooking the approval of Cabinet is in clear violation apart from various other breaches by ANI Admn in the execution of the Yacht Marina Project in Viper Island.

Viper Island Row: EIA in Haste!

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012

Viper Island Row: No Public Consultation
EIA in Haste!

By Debkumar Bhadra

Every time I cross the Chatham Bridge, the Jetty-cum-Vehicle Ferry Ramp adjoining the bridge invariably captures my attention towards it. The more I try to look the other way, the more I feel drawn towards its abandoned status. The jetty inaugurated on 22/02/2002, despite every sincere effort, failed to serve the purpose for which it has been constructed. In the present article I will not be going into the inconveniences the passengers faced nor would I go into the operational difficulties which even the seasoned boat masters encountered in berthing while the jetty was put to use for a brief period. But I would certainly mention, had a proper site survey been conducted before construction of the jetty, the massive blunder could have been prevented from being committed.
The simplest tool that could have helped authorities take an informed decision on the suitability (or otherwise) of the particular site for construction of the jetty is a "Wind Rose" (now Compass Rose). It basically gives a graphic view of how wind speed and direction are typically distributed at a particular location.  As shown in the figure, each concentric circle represents a different frequency from zero at the center to increasing frequencies at the outer circles. Length of each "spoke" is related to frequency of the wind blowing from a particular direction per unit time and the color-coded bands show wind speed ranges over 16 cardinal directions, namely North (N), North of North East, (NNE), North East (NE), East of North East (ENE), East (E) and so on.
From the wind rose it is evident, directions between WNW and WSW is going to be "Calm" whereas S and NNW directions are going to be "windy" location. This foretells planners that structures facing S and NNW will encounter speedy winds thus construction in this direction must adopt necessary safeguards. In case, planners are looking for calm region, they need to go for location between WNW and WSW directions. Thus compiling wind rose constitutes a preliminary step in the planning stage for construction of airport runways, bridges, highrise buildings and Jetties as well.
In case of Chatham causeway jetty, overlooking this simple planning tool, led to construction of a jetty right in the path of prevalent wind, rendering the jetty unfit for the very purpose it has been constructed. Precious time, scarce resources and public funds gone into making of the Chatham causeway Jetty all ended up creating a colossal waste of magnanimous proportions.
One may think this is just one of its kind incidents. Unfortunately this is not "one of its kind" but in fact is "one" among "a spate of incidents" wherein one or the other mandatory planning tool has been overlooked. The proposed Entertainment Hub at Viper Islands as reported by The Light of Andamans (Vol 36, Issue 01) is the latest addition to the long list.
Going by the instant report one can conclude construction of Casino, Man Made Beach, Luxury Resorts, Cable car, 50 Berth Yacht Marina, 30 Bedded Hotel and a variety of other never thought of structures covering the entire length, breadth and the seas surrounding Viper island would require widespread landscaping and large scale felling of naturally gown trees. Whereas May 2002 Apex Court ruling restricting felling of naturally grown trees is already in the public domain.
Here it is worth quoting, the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 imposes certain restrictions and prohibitions on new projects or activities, or on the expansion or modernization of existing projects or activities based on their potential environmental impacts in accordance with the objectives of National Environment Policy as approved by the Union Cabinet on 18th May, 2006. The tourism related project on Viper Island is no exception.
Tools prescribed to forecast impacts the project is likely to have on the environment include the Prefeasibility Report, mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA), Public Consultation, and prior Environmental Clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Additionally clearance from Ministry of Defense is also a pre-requisite in this instant, since the project is planned near defense establishments.
The extant EIA Notification published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, and Section 3, Sub-section (ii), Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi dated 14th September, 2006 lists all tourism projects between 200m and 500m of high water line and at locations with an elevation of more than 1000m with investment of more than Rs 5 crores, as those requiring prior Environmental Clearance.
Therefore the tourism project titled Entertainment Hub at Viper Island including 50 Berth Yacht Marina and 30 Bedded Hotel must go through the procedural formalities mandated for Environmental Clearance. This also means Environmental Impact Assessment of the entire Viper Islands is required to be carried out by Project Proponents (A&N Administration) which must include Public Consultation (Public Hearing at the project site or in close proximity and obtaining responses in writing).
Since a short cut route has been charted surpassing mandatory assessments tools and consultation mechanisms, it perhaps remained hidden that, Viper being a tiny Island, its environment including natural forests, marine environment and the entire biodiversity associated with the island ecosystems are unique, fragile and sensitive to human interference. Since the proposed project envisages large scale landscaping, land use and meddling with marine environment, the project is bound to impact the islands unique ecosystem. Therefore apprehension raised against the project is only obvious.
Further during the past few years these islands witnessed a contrast in the approach of island Administration specifically in taking up projects and implementation of rule provisions relating to safety of environment. It is seen projects relating to tourism are being expedited whereas those concerning local residents gets held up at one or the other stage. One of the glaring example is the long pending demand for a bridge connecting Bambooflat and Chatham which has a direct bearing on the day-to-day life of more than a quarter of Islands population residing in rural South Andaman. As soon as NIT for feasibility study of the said bridge was released, one of the Administrations wing is known to have objected the bridge citing navigational problem. Thus the all important bridge has been shelved, without even conducting a feasibility study.
Also fisherfolks engaged in small (un-mechanised) dinghy fishing in the sheltered water near Haddo-Chatham-Dundaspoint and nearby sea are accused for blocking the navigational channel; harassed and shoved away. Ironically the same set of officials are either maintaining a tactical silence or playing a proactive role facilitating proposed 50 Berth Yacht Marina and a 30 Bedded Luxury Hotel at Viper, which certainly would attract large scale movement of yachts and boats occupying the navigational channel.
Similarly proposed construction of Ice plant at Hope Town, rural road from Shoal Bay -15 to the revenue village at Shoal Bay-19, extraction of timber, sea sand, quarry products for bonafide local consumption are all  blocked for environmental and other administrative reasons. Ironically the same set of officials now remain oblivious of the Viper Island project, surpassing mandatory planning procedures and clearances which eventually would result in re-writing the geography (and the history) of the entire Viper Island permanently.
In the current administrative setup where there exists no platform for Islanders to raise their concerns, doing away with Public Consultation (despite mandated under EIA rules) not only alienates local population, it attracts unnecessary media glare and public outcry. This is exactly what happened in the case of proposed Entertainment Hub at Viper Islands. Since conception till selective implementation of the project, local Islanders have been kept at bay. Thus Islanders sentimentally attached to Viper Islands for its role in India's freedom struggle and their fear of cultural degradation due to increased presence of foreigners in their sacred land remained unheard.
It has repeatedly been told Islanders are the target benefactors of such development projects and schemes. If it is so the Islander's deserves to be involved and heard by the Administration (project proponents). Alienation of locals would result in confrontationist approach besides casting serious aspersions.