India – biggest democracy in the world gears-up to impose autocratic new rules in Minicoy

Lakshadweep Islands, which lie off the west coast of India, are the smallest of the Union Territories (UT) under the Government of the India | Photo: Maritime India

Lakshadweep, India – Indian government gear-up to impose proposed new rules in India’s smallest Union territory Lakshadweep, the archipelago which includes Minicoy Island, located some 125 km north of Thuraakunu, Maldives. 

Residents claim that the controversial new draft of Town and Country Planning Regulations 2021, is believed to have the potential of alienating the local population from the traditional land rights that they have enjoyed for generations. 

Minicoy is the second largest and the southernmost among the islands of the Lakshadweep. The territory of Lakshadweep is with no legislative Assembly, and is directly under the control of Central government of India. 

Sunni Muslim majority residents of Minicoy claims that new measures in the draft will further strengthen central governments control over the administration. Recently the administration also lifted restriction on the use of alcohol in the islands, banned beef products citing animal preservation, and demolished fisherman sheds built on coastal areas saying violated Coast Guard Act.

Citing a local lawyer from Minicoy, local media reported that as per provisions of the draft regulations, the Administrator will be the absolute authority in all matters related to town and country planning, including appointment of the Chief Town Planner, members of the Planning and Development Authority and declaration of planning areas and obsolete areas in the islands. The Administrator is further empowered to make any rules and will also have absolute powers to perform any action under these regulations.

But the government of India has defended its action commenting that, unlike Maldives, Lakshadweep with similar geographic characteristics has never been explored its tourism potential and can be an internationally attractive tourist destination after the new planning regulations. The policy in the eyes of the Indian government, is geared to develop Lakshadweep as a tourist destination like the Maldives.

Minicoy Island has historic ties with Maldives, sharing similar language and culture. And some claims that during reign of  King Sultan Mohamed IV of Maldives, the  grant issued under the seal of the King, evidently referred him as  “Sole Sovereign with no other over what lies between Maliku and Addu”, and indicates earlier Minicoy was ruled by Maldivian Kings and Queens.