Bitter turf war unfolding in Lakshadweep

Panchayats lock horns with officials over ‘belligerent reforms’

A bitter turf war is unfolding in Lakshadweep between elected representatives of panchayats and officials of the Union Territory administration in the wake of the latter trying to push a series of ‘belligerent reforms’ unmindful of protests.

On May 26, Hassan Bodumukagothi, president and chief councillor of the only district panchayat in the Union Territory, issued a notice to A.T. Damodhar, Secretary in charge of Agriculture, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Panchayats, asking him to explain why he was interfering in the functioning of the departments whose control had been transferred to the panchayats by way of an order in 2012.

The official had been given three days to explain his position, failing which appropriate action would be recommended to the Union Home Ministry, which supervises the dweep administration, Mr. Bodumukagothi said in a letter, a copy of which has been accessed by The Hindu.

The district panchayat president maintained that while the proposed panchayat regulation is still in the draft form, Mr. Damodhar had shown extreme disrespect to the Union “cabinet, the houses of the people and as well as to the hon’ble President of India (sic)”. The letter also flays the official for violating protocol by excluding top panchayat officials from the meetings.

While the administration maintained that its proposals were still to be approved, a notification issued by Mr. Damodhar on behalf of the administrator on May 5 had ordered an immediate roll back of the powers delegated to the panchayat raj institutions (PRIs). “It was felt that the said notification dated 7.3.2012 had overburdened the PRIs with manpower management and issues regarding procurement of various commodities whereby adversely affecting the efficiency of the seamless execution of schemes transferred to PRIs,” the May 5 order read.

Meanwhile, the Kavaratti village (dweep) panchayat passed a resolution protesting the ‘unconstitutional, undemocratic and unscientific’ reforms pushed by the administration. “Any project or plan should be implemented in consultation with the elected representatives of the village and district panchayats as per the integrated island management plan (IIMP) approved by the Supreme Court,” it said and registered its protest against District Collector Asker Ali for “humiliating the people of Lakshadweep at a press conference held in Kochi.”

The administration on May 29 issued a circular authorising the additional district magistrate as the single-point to issue entry permit to the union territory from May 30. “All kinds of entry permits of those who are still in the islands can be extended by one week by the respective deputy collectors/block development officers of the concerned islands. On completion of the permit period, they have to return to the mainland or they have to obtain permission from the ADM for extension,” the order said.

Watch | What is happening in Lakshadweep?

 

The new order is in the wake of several committees and political leaders seeking permission to visit the islands to get a feel of what’s happening on ground.

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