Thursday, March 26, 2015

Governance and Development Issues Top on Our Agenda: Vishal Jolly

Governance and Development Issues Top on Our Agenda:  Vishal Jolly

The Islands needs either a Legislative Assembly or a Pradesh Council with executive powers, said Vishal Jolly addressing a press conference after attending a Conference of Union Territories held under the aegis of BJP in New Delhi.

He said that a presentation was made before the national leaders, including Central Ministers highlighting major issues concerning governance and a roadmap for future development of the Islands. He also said that a memorandum has been submitted, which was well received.

On governance he said that the Islands governed by a Lieutenant Governor with a team of bureaucrats could never do justice to the place as well as the people.

"Lack of a democratic setup is quite visible in the skewed policies framed without the participation of the Islanders, as well as implementation of various projects and schemes of Government of India," he said.

Comparing the financial assistance coming from Central Government and the meager revenue generated, he blamed the existing system of governance for the state of affairs.

"The Central Government has been supporting the Islands with financial assistance to the tune of Rs 4000 crores including Plan and Non-Plan fund. However, the revenue generated is hardly Rs 240 crores per annum, just 6.25% of our expenditure," Vishal said.

In case of an Assembly or Pradesh Council, he suggested that stringent anti-defection laws needs to be enforced to prevent horse trading, which  decides the fate of governments in small states, and he said that frequent changes in power system is an impediment in the long term.

On the existing three tier PRI system, he observed that  in a small place it often leads to overlapping of jurisdiction causing unnecessary duplication. And he suggested replacing Zilla Parishad electoral constituency by Legislative Assembly to ensure people's participation in governance.

On Development front, he said that the Islands need to take advantage of its geographical location which straddles the maritime gateway to the Bay of Bengal.  He said that the world's busiest shipping lane, Malacca Strait pass just to the South of A&N Islands. Because of the unique location of the Islands, India can dominate both the Bay of Bengal and play an important role in Indo-Pacific transit.

He put forth the idea of a Trans-shipment Port with all allied services at Campbell Bay, Great Nicobar, Southernmost tip of India, which will go a long way in harnessing the benefit from the maritime trade along Malacca Strait hardly 100 kms away.

Referring to the data provided by Nippon Maritime Centre, Singapore, he said that approximately 80,000 merchant shipping vessels carrying cargo and merchandise transit through the Strait lying close to Campbell Bay. If a trans-shipment port comes up at Campbell Bay, the shipping sector would prefer to utilize the facility which as of now is going to Hambantota Port, in Sri Lanka, taking a diversion of extra 300 miles. It is important to note that Indian transshipment in this port is 62% which in term exceeds Rupees 15 billion.

"The sea draught around Campbell Bay is more than 18 mtrs, which is the deepest in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and can draw vessels of any size and capacity," he said.

He further added that the trans-shipment port will help India strengthen its presence in the Southernmost part as a security provider from maritime piracies. as well as the competition arising from the presence of nations like China in the vicinity.  It would generate revenue for the government and large-scale skilled and non-skilled employment for the local population.

Batting for an independent Shipping Corporation for the Islands, he said that Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the second largest fleet of about 85 ships after SCI, consisting of 1200-pax Mainland bound ships as well as small vessels plying within the islands. The Directorate of Shipping is unable to manage the fleet on commercial lines and has engaged Shipping Corporation of India and a private firm for technical as well as manpower management, which is a drain on the exchequer without proper monitoring affecting the services. The Andaman and Nicobar Administration is unable to hire qualified personnel due to payment constraint in the government sector. Hence, it would be advisable to have an independent Shipping Corporation for Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Out of around 85 ships, the ratio of non-operational ships are very high due to lack of proper Ship Repairing Yard. A fully equipped Dockyard would go a long way in the maintenance of existing vessels as well as a support system for the trans-shipment port too.

In tourism sector, he said that Andaman and Nicobar Islands have enormous tourism potential due to its location as well as the enchanting Islands with beautiful and virgin beaches.

He said that a good number of Yacht and Cruise liners intend to reach our shores how ever due to lengthy and distributed clearance procedures, miniscule of the yacht and cruise liners ultimately visit the Islands. Not to mention a major chunk of it goes to other locations like Phuket. He suggested that with the introduction of a Single-window Online Portal for online application and issuance of permits for Yacht and Cruise Liners, the process could be made visitor friendly, which will help in increasing tourism possibilities.

He also suggested introduction of Visa on Arrival for Tourists at Port Blair airport as well as Seaport at par with the facility extended to various other cities of our country, the quantum of foreign tourists visiting the islands will increase manifold, bringing in more foreign exchange.

Vishal Jolly said that he has placed the demand to open up more Islands for tourism.

"There are many potential Islands, which can be opened up for tourism. Many Islands, where day-time tourism can be allowed such as the 14 Islands inside the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park including Grub Island, Alexandra, Tarmugli, and Mahua Dera Islands in South Andaman," he suggested.

Demanding sufficient infrastructure, he said that many other Islands remain out of the tourism orbit due to lack of connectivity and infrastructure such as Madhuban (South Andaman), Avis Island (Middle Andaman), Ross and Smith (Diglipur) and Hut Bay (Little Andaman) and many more.

He also put forth the idea of two or three Tourism Circuits involving three or more islands wherein tourists could enjoy boat rides and Island camping like Port Blair - Havelock - Long Island - Diglipur, Port Blair - Hut Bay - Nicobar - Campbell Bay etc.

On renewal of Palm Oil Cultivation, presently abandoned, he suggested that it needs to be revived and modernised.

"Presently our country import edible oil to the tune of Rs 1 Lakh Crores, in foreign exchange. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands which also falls in the same Geographic region of South East countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, the largest producers of the World, could contribute in the sector of Red Oil Palm Cultivation,"

The existing A & N Forest Development Corporation has large area under Red Oil Palm cultivation in Little Andaman, which is in bad shape and was abandoned due to various reasons such as low yield. The employees are now depending on Government grant for salaries. It could be revived with plantation of improved and high yielding varieties of Red Oil Palm. Modern machineries, tools and techniques as in South East Asian countries could be used to revive the Red Oil Palm industry which will also generate high amount of bio-mass," he said.

He also said that the review of the recommendations of Shekhar Singh Commission is on the anvil.

"On Tourism and Fisheries, two sectors heavily dependent on seafront activities from stringent CRZ Norms, I have suggest that these two mainstay sectors need to be exempted from the norms, so that more infrastructural development comes up bringing more revenue," he said.

On the issue of tsunami affected farmers, Vishal said that soon some positive news will come from Delhi.  

On Domicile issue, he informed that he has demanded to put in place Domicile Criteria for local jobs by promulgating the Andaman & Nicobar Islands Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Regulation and thereafter fill up the available vacancies in Govt. Departments in a time bound manner.

Apart from the above issues, Vishal said that the demand for ST status for Ranchi community has also been discussed with the leaders.

Replying to a question on exorbitant airfare in Mainland-Island sector, he said that he has spoken to the Lieutenant Governor to also involve private players for chartering flights, as Air India is unable to provide aircraft due to various reasons.

Citing the achievements of the new government, he said that Medical College, Andaman College, Chartered Flight, Revamping of Sports in the Islands were a few major steps.

Vishal also requested the Administration to simplify the procedures in Revenue department, so that common man is not unnecessarily harassed by the officials citing rules and regulations.

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