20September2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Opinion

When Seeking a Solution

By Zubair Ahmed

On the issue of employment to the Islanders, the initial response of the Administration was kind of frustration and displeasure, as nothing had been happening on this front for a long time. The Lieutenant Governor came out lashing on his predecessors as well as the Member of Parliament, and the PRIs and even expressed his anguish in a tweet saying that since 2007, when the arrangement was stopped, there was no action from anywhere. He felt that he took a pro-active step to unearth the buried posts and provide employment opportunities. There is no denial on the part that he felt it necessary that the acute despair and despondency amongst the Islanders can be only addressed by providing the educated youth employment opportunities.

The Lieutenant Governor's letter to the Home Minister on the issue of preferential treatment to Islanders in employment is based more on the angst erupting in the society and seeking a remedy from Ministry of Home Affairs.

However, it becomes pertinent to look beyond the emotional outburst and have  a pragmatic approach to the issue. When he was seen expressing at various forums that 'a viable solution needs to be explored safeguarding the interests of the Islanders within legal and administrative framework', the communication sent to the Ministry fails to address the issue through proper justifications.

Apart from the reasons like the remoteness of the geographically scattered territory, forest cover, poor connectivity, stringent forest laws and lack of educational institutions for higher education, the reasons why the Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Home Affairs earlier rejected the proposal and the changed scenario should have been communicated.

Instead of putting the onus on the Ministry of Home Affairs to find a solution, some homework would have gone a long way suggesting a way out from the precarious situation. The Daman and Diu arrangement has its own lacunae, which can again attract litigation.

Soon after the Supreme Court order in 1991, the arrangement of local candidates continued till 2005, when finally the local certificate was declared invalid for employment. There had been an attempt to promulgate the “Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Regulation” by the President of India under Article 240 of constitution and a draft regulation was even sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs vide letter No.18-134/83-Legal dated 25.9.1988.

This was followed by several letters by Lt. Governor Ishwari Prasad Gupta dated 16.6.2000 and Lt Governor N. N. Jha dated 19.12.2001 and 11.9.2002.

Soon before the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice communicated on 22 February 2007, that the promulgation of proposed "The Andaman & Nicobar Islands Public Employment Regulation", is neither justified administratively nor sustainable from constitutional or legal angles, it had sent more than five reminders on 7 Feb 2006, 11 August 2006, October 2006, November 2006 and on 22 January 2007 asking the ANI Administration for detailed comments with justification for such a Regulation for which there was no response.

In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs in February 2006 had sought the break-up figures of employment from 2001 to 2005 to which the ANI Admn submitted that out of 1318 appointments, only seven non-Islander candidates had applied, out of which two were employed. As the Admn was following the OM of 1984 issued by MHA, where only local candidates could apply, it had helped in preventing the non-Islanders from applying. The Ministry felt that the number of persons applying from outside is negligible based on the figures submitted and the proposal was rejected.

Since 2005, the situation has drastically changed. The mode of communication has improved and most of the posts are advertised online. Unfortunately, the letter sent by the Lieutenant Governor does not mention figures about the status of non-Islanders applying for jobs since 2006. It is learnt from reliable sources that about 161 non-Islanders have already applied for the 422 posts advertised for teachers recruitment, which is more than 40%. The facts and figures, which is not in the public domain, could have given enough teeth to the letter justifying the demand for preferential treatment for the Islanders.

The Administration though, has precisely sensed the mood of the Islanders, which reflects in the letter, a sincere exercise with proper justifications based on facts and figures could have been appreciable.

 

It is also significant that the Administration could have invited suggestions from the civil society and looked outside too for viable solutions.  Instead of viewing representations from the civil society and organisations as letters of demand or dissent, it could have paved way for a democratic approach.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Plight of ANIFPDCL employees-The inside story

By Dr. Dinesh

All the political parties as well as the administrators of Andaman & Nicobar Islands are lamenting about the lack of employment potential inherent in these islands for years together without impacting any positives. Had there been any visionary approach with missionary zeal, the situation would have been much different by this time. The two areas of major employment presently available are tourism and fisheries. While the former is made use of by the unemployed with little investment while it requires considerably higher investment to venture into the fisheries sector, which can hardly be afforded to by many.

The scenario till the beginning of 90s was different when we had timber based industries like Andaman Timber Industries (ATI), WIMCO and Kitply Industries etc which were providing employment to the local populace. Unfortunately all these factories had its natural death due to the policy change of the Government of India in timber extraction activities.

The Forest Corporations were established in all the States and Union Territories with the clear mandate of commercial exploitation of mature and over mature trees that would have been otherwise subjected to natural decay in the forest. It had other objectives too such as employment generation etc. ANIFPDCL was thus formed in these islands too and it has been entrusted with extraction of timber from Little Andaman and identified areas of North Andaman.

It also raised Red Oil Palm Plantations in Little Andaman and later on added Palm Oil extraction unit to produce Crude Palm Oil. Altogether ANIFPDCL had been achieving the set objectives and achieved the status of ‘Mini Ratna’ in 1997.Apart from being one of the largest employment providers, it had been contributing considerably to the national exchequer too.

The abrupt change in the policy of the Government of India in the matter of forest conservation, the timber extraction activity of ANIFPDCL was stopped catapulting its hitherto vibrant financial health to anaemic condition. It exhausted its surplus savings and subjected itself to scrap the bottom of the barrel. The employees were not getting salaries for months together. Attention of the authorities was drawn into the serious situation and various committees were formed to suggest ways and means to restore the vibrancy of ANIFPDCL. Pending final decision on its fate funds were released to make payment of salary and wages of the employees annually. The employees were however, not allowed the benefit of intervening pay scale revisions and they have been sustaining on the pre-revised wage/pay structure unlike their contemporaries in government departments.

The proposals to wind up ANIFPDCL made by various Committees constituted time and again were not accepted by different agencies at different time, the latest being A&N Administration. While seeking opinion on the proposal for phased closure, the A&N Administration furnished their decision to take over the Corporation transferring the ownership from MoE&F. The proposal was accepted by the Government of India and fresh Cabinet Note was prepared based on the proposals submitted by the A&N Administration, which is taking, considerably long time to hand over the reins to the Administration, i.e. w.e.f 1st April 2014. The finalised Cabinet Note was sent to A&N Administration and also among other government agencies, more than fours moths back for comments. While all other departments have furnished their positive comments, the same from the Administration has been kept pending for no plausible reasons all these days. Reminders from the Ministry of Home and the MoE&F have been received despite which the comments have been prolonged at the bureaucracy.

Now that it is known that the A&N Administration has turned volte face and it is learnt that the comments contains proposal for virtual winding up of ANIFPDCL. Considering that it is not a viable entity, perhaps only looking at its poor performance during its period of crisis/uncertainty of continuance. Moreover it is also understood that in the revival proposal for ANIFPDCL, the A&N Admn. Surprisingly has not included the commercial forestry activities, the very purpose for which this Corporation has come to existence. In fact, the MHA, MoE&F and the A&N Admn. Had earlier committed to entrust all the commercial forestry activities to the ANIFPDCL and thus the Department of Forests was declared as ‘service department’. This was also included in the Action Taken Report (ATR) submitted by the A&N Admn. To the Hon’ble Apex Court.  The employees of ANIFPDCL are living without salary/wages from Sept.  2013 for the reason that the Ministry has emphatically pitted it with the finalisation of Cabinet proposal.There has been natural accretion in the number of employees of the Corporation these years.

It also had to withstand the vagaries of dreaded Tsunami in 2004 when it lost many of its employees. All apart; there have been untimely deaths of employees too.

Decimation of ANIFPDCL by its winding up will not only cause its primary impact of economic activities of islands like Little Andaman, which has been pivoted around the salary/wages of the employees of the Corporation. It will leave a large bunch of unemployed people, who are demographically disadvantaged to seek further employment elsewhere with all other social evils to follow.

 

Having decided to run A&NIFPDCL with renewed mandate by the Administration duly taking over its ownership and also having fixed the date of transfer of ownership, now it is for the Administration to return the Cabinet Note with only positive comments. It is more important that finalising the Cabinet Note is directly interlinked with release of further funds to payment of salary and wages of the employees of the Corporation, who have been basking in the hope of getting their salary/wages immediately. The sky rocketing prices of essential commodities, children’s education, managing family has become a nightmare. The Hon’ble Lt. Governor, who has exhibited his prowess in containing the adverse situations with his visionary skill as a brave soldier of the country, needs to adopt a pragmatic approach in this matter, and the anguish and agony of the employees of ANIFPDCL.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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An Open Letter with Love...

By Zubair Ahmed

 

The urge to write an open letter to Shri Kuldeep Rai Sharmaji dawned after my week-long wait for a reply from the aspirant MP candidate of Congress (I). For those who are not on the social networking site, Facebook, I had sent an SMS - the easiest thing to do - to three prominent leaders of two major political parties - Congress and BJP - about non-Islanders applying for various posts, especially the 400+ vacancies notified for teachers. Within 10 minutes, got a response from Mr Bishnu Pada Ray and Mr Vishal Jolly of BJP, willing to take up the issue with the Administration. They  took the bait unhesitatingly. Unfortunately, I am not a mind reader and don't really know what Kuldeepji thinks. Hence thought of writing to him about it and various other matters that have come to my notice.

 

Dear Kuldeep Rai Sharmaji,

As you know the beauty of SMS is its delivery confirmation system. As an humble and potential voter, anticipated a word or two through SMS as reply. Disappointed and dejected, planned to write a few words.

For your kind information, I am no Chetan Bhagat and you are no Rahul Gandhi. But, we feel proud that our territory is referred to as mini India, and hence request to kindly treat this as a mini letter from an Islander.

Kuldeepji, had a feeling that after 50 years you might be representing the Islands as a local candidate after Shri K R Ganesh. But, you seems to have other plans and strategies best known to you. 

In the last general elections, you lost for a thin margin, and the Islanders whined and whimpered, but with a solace that you might make a strong comeback. Maybe due to other pressing engagements, you took a two-year sweet hiatus mourning the loss. And, whenever someone approached for small favours, you directed them to Bishnu with a vengeance. And they did go to Bishnu, who got the space and time to recoup and consolidate.

Sadly, not much to write about the last Panchayat elections. Everyone aspired to be a Congress candidate, and approached you to get a seat. And, you realized the importance of being Congress head and distributed the seats equitably amongst your closest circle. What to say, it resulted in many defections. Many Congresswallahs turned rival and won elections with huge margin. Still, we were happy that you were not deterred by all these gimmicks. You knew very well that they will come back to the party once elections are over. You had the cake and you ate it too!

We were so happy to learn about your proximity to the former LG Bhopinder Singh, and expected that the chemistry between you two might change the face of the Islands. Every day dawned with a new press release, promptly acknowledged by Raj Niwas. People stormed into your office to get their work done. And, once again you became important.  You felt the need for a media adviser, like the incumbent LG does. Without much ado, you looked into BJP stable, lured and poachned Haridasji, and R Mohan was left in the lurch. For a price, he sold his soul and joined you. He never regretted the decision, as he rose to higher pedestals. We were excited by the partnership!

And, there was a series of 'Welcome Home' parties all over the place. You knew that you will be the uncrowned king of PRIs and focused on poaching elected PRIs one by one. But forgot that they had won against Congress candidates. Individually and in groups, elected PRIs started joining Congress and the trumpet beat resonated from Diglipur to Campbell Bay. Congresswallahs were rejoiced, as their leader could reclaim what they had lost. Sadly, you forgot that the voters didn't like this move. They felt cheated, and eagerly waited for an opportunity. And thus Ferrar Gunj happened, Mayabunder happened and Little Andaman too happened! With love, they took back what you snatched from them.

The poor Islanders ignorant about your strategies thought that your proximity to Bhopinder Singh did cause a little damage here and there. When Tsunami-affected farmers came out on the streets, you could not come out openly, they blame. But, you got the best opportunity to recover, when P Chidambaram, the Home Minister visited your office premises and promised something, I don't remember everything, not even Bhopinder Singh remembered it. In Viper Island Yacht Marina issue, your friend asked you to help him out and you helped him very well. Although people started hating your friend, you were very close in their kidneys and livers, waiting to be flushed out anytime.

And halfway, the heart-shattering news came that after a very short period of six and half years, your close friend Bhopinder Singh has been replaced. It was really disheartening. We were all shocked. But, you once again showed optimism, as it is UPA in the Centre. And, the new Lieutenant Governor, A K Singh took charge. You met him at the oath ceremony, but could not read his mind. And then he called you as well as Bishnu, the sitting MP. We were shocked to learn that he made it very clear that he was not a political appointee unlike his predecessor and would maintain equidistance from both of you, but he would respect Bishnuji as the MP. What if Bishnu is happy with that stand, we are still hopeful and feel that he has a soft corner for you, and he is very much worried about your prospects in the coming elections.

When in the PBMC election for the Chairperson, the cover that you had sent was opened, we were so excited, that Bhaiyya has spoken, but you know, they don't treat you like Sonia or Rahul. They had made up their mind against your choice. And, we are proud that you did not avenge and respected their view. That's the spirit. Or, how could you tolerate what happened in the election for Adhyaksh in North and Middle Andamans. Or, with all precautions taken, Muthu weeping on your shoulders, you consoled him and gave your consent to Mariyam Bibi to be the Adhyaksha. And, we were once again happy when things happened as you wished. What's wrong if things don't go the way you want them to go, you let it go!

Not dissuaded by all these, you continued the good work by focusing more on the institutions under your direct and indirect control. Your love for the widows, orphans, disabled, infirm and elders reflected in every step you took. You rightly used AN Coop Bank, Coop Union and ANCOFED for rendering yeomen service. People loved you for your concern and they want you to always head all these institutions. Defying all logic, you employed as many as 300 youth in Bank. You distributed hard-earned deposits of the poor Islanders as charity to the rich, and waived off the burden of loan from many poor rich guys. You will be always remembered for all these generous acts. You kept low-profile and never ever tried to send a direct or indirect message that you were doing all these to influence voters or become an MP, and they respect you for that and will never ever forget the message. They would rather love to see you as heads of the institutions than the Member of Parliament, as you always wished.

And, why bother about the rumours about other contenders for the MP seat from the Islands, when your focus is more on social service rather than any post. Let TSG Bhaskar or Paritosh Haldar try for the seat, who cares! We are very happy that you have remained away from all controversies unlike BJP. You know, there are serious differences between Vishal and Bishnu and the confusion about their seat continues.

Personally, you have changed a lot, and change is that every one wants. You have stopped wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses to funerals and maintain a very healthy regimen nowadays. But, I am always intrigued by the photo that appears on all materials including banners, billboards, invitations and even posters. In that photo you look very young and a bit juvenile as it was taken soon after your ANC era. But, you have changed a lot, as growing older is mandatory and growing up optional. Kindly give a thought about it, if you find time and space.

Should I once again remind you the purpose of writing this letter? I had send you a SMS and came to know that you already knew the issue and even met CS and discussed it. I respect that, as you keep everything very discreet as the interior chamber in your office, far far away from the maddening crowd. 

We appreciate your concern and hope that you believe in Karma - what you give is what you get in return. 

 

With best wishes...

  • Written by Denis Giles
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