'Administrator discusses nothing with me': NCP's Lakshadweep MP

Mohammed Faizal Padippura says people want a PPP model of tourism

27-Mohammed-Faizal-Padippura Mohammed Faizal Padippura | J. Suresh

Interview/ Mohammed Faizal Padippura, MP, Nationalist Congress Party, Lakshadweep

It seems the administration plans to bring high-end tourism by taking over pandaram land in Lakshadweep.

Uninhabited islands like Bangaram and Thinnakara are at the focal [point] for tourism [development]. All these tourism-focused islands are pandaram land. In all these islands, [the administration] has issued a notice [saying that the government owns the land]. The people have gone to court and [obtained a] stay. Under these circumstances, how is a private entrepreneur expected to come and invest here? We were expecting the prime minister to [talk about this] in his speech. But he was silent on that. No one is against tourism development here. We all consented to form a consortium [for tourism development]. [The islanders are] ready to share the profit and the loss of [tourism projects]. We want a PPP model of tourism. But now the entire thing is going in a different angle. Now, the administrator says that this land does not belong to the people.

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Pandaram land is not just on uninhabited islands. The administration has plans to build a new airport on south pandaram land of inhabited Minicoy.

This will be an issue everywhere. Lakshadweep has been in existence for centuries. All these long years, people were living here. All those who have ruled us―Arakkal dynasty or Britishers―have tried to exploit us. They tried to grab our land. [But a] lot of pandaram land has also been acquired by the government of India [with] compensation paid. The home ministry has made a lot of clearances on that.

Can you cite some examples?

Almost all the buildings and offices in Kavaratti stand on pandaram land. In all these, there was absolutely no dispute till Mr [Praful Khoda] Patel (the administrator) reached here. He comes and says that this is government land. How will the people accept this? Only if we solve this dispute can we compete with Maldives.

Regarding the new airport in Minicoy, there has been a change in the construction plan. Initially, the airport was proposed for the northern strip of the island, but now, it has been moved to the southern strip.

The only area where local people have some vegetation is the south pandaram area. The northern strip has no vegetation; it is barren land and not much of the people’s land is included in that area. But now, the plan for the airport has deliberately been shifted. In south pandaram, when these surveys were being done, the land owners were not informed.

So, the administrator does not discuss these matters with you, the MP of Lakshadweep?

No. Nothing is discussed.

In the Union budget for 2023-24, Lakshadweep was allocated Rs1,394.75 crore.

Rs1,300 crore to Rs1,600 crore is the annual outlay we are getting. Nearly 50 per cent of that amount [now goes] unutilised and is being surrendered back to the government of India.

Why is that happening?

To have some projects, to have some buildings constructed, this [pandaram] is the land he is taking. But for that, he is not paying any compensation. He treats this land as [if] it belongs to the government.

Since this administrator assumed office, he has announced numerous mega projects.

We have been hearing that from 2021 onwards. But he is not at all aware of the environment and ecological aspects of Lakshadweep. Unless you know the environment that is suitable for a project, you cannot implement it here. For instance, if you [want to build] three-lane roads, the islands will be left with only roads, no houses. People should not be affected. No demolition should happen. You may allot Rs2,000 crore for roads, Rs4,000 crore for an airport, Rs4,000 crore for Sagar Mala (Central government project). These are all things that [will remain] on paper only.

For the projects announced, consultancy companies are coming and doing a lot of work.

And then these projects may not be considered. A lot of money has been paid for consultancy. But on the ground, nothing has happened in these three years.

So these consultancies are being paid from the Rs1,300 crore that is being allocated?