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Andamans Foraging Ahead Towards Faster Growth: Admiral DK Joshi

Lt. Governor Calls His Maiden Press Conference

Port Blair, Feb 16: With a slew of developmental projects progressing at various stages, the A & N Islands is forging ahead towards faster growth and development. After a gap of 3 years, the Administrator’s Advisory Council meeting was held in November 2017 in which various developmental issues relating to the islands were discussed. Deliberating on the various developmental issues, the Lt. Governor, A&N Islands, Admiral DK Joshi today called his maiden press conference wherein he explained the progress of works and also took a volley of questions from the media.

The Admiral said that he has spent a little over four months as the Lt. Governor of the islands and has extensively travelled the length and breadth of the Islands from Campbell Bay to Diglipur except Neil and Havelock. He cleared that he did not want to visit Neil and Havelock because it is much frequented a place by visitors and it is not difficult to gather information about these places.

During his few months of tenure as the Lt. Governor, Admiral Joshi utilized his time to streamline the burning issues of the islands and to represent it to the Centre. “We have received full support from New Delhi particularly from the Island Development Agency”, he said adding that significant visible changes will be seen in ground by the mid of this year. Joshi stated that it will be the beginning of Infrastructural Augmentation.

Regarding Undersea Cable, the Admiral said that the tender has been opened on 6th February 2018 and it will take one year’s time to be operational. Meanwhile the Admiral had called upon the concerned Ministry and spelt the need to improve connectivity in the islands. We have had 1.2 GBPS bandwidth till date which is being shared by various agencies apart from general public. Now we have decided to double the bandwidth to 2.3 GBPS, which has already been approved by the concerned authorities. By the end of the year we will be able to achieve this and by that time the Undersea Cable will also be in place.

Our efforts has been in encouraging competition for the benefit of consumers. The other telecom operators apart from BSNL did not have the necessary infrastructure to upgrade their hardware which led to roadblocks. Now we have a written order issued to BSNL for mounting private operator’s hardware in their towers. This will ensure a healthy competition, the Admiral said.

Regarding the much talked about Chatham – Bambooflat Bridge, Admiral Joshi cleared that the height of the bridge was a concern for the defence and this has been sorted out. We will have a unique bridge in the shape of an arch soon. The project is now in the DPR stage, he said.

On being asked about the lack of publicity being given to the newly opened sea route connecting Port Blair and Baratang, Admiral Joshi ensured that all attempts will be made to provide adequate publicity to the Alternate Sea Route. The LG accepted that the new route hasn’t been publicized much and also said that the route offers one of the most beautiful sea trips which is an experience in itself. It is much better than the Lime Stone Caves and Mud Volcano which Baratang Island has to offer. Joshi also said that unlike foreign tourists who do adequate research before travelling to places, India tourists mostly depend on tour operators for information. Perhaps this is one reason why this route is not popular yet, he added.  

Regarding posting of a junior level officer in the post of Director of Education, which has been receiving much criticism from the teaching fraternity, the Lt. Governor assured that he will look into the matter.

On the issue of Transshipment Port at Campbell Bay, the Admiral said that in 2010 a consultant was appointed who had declared that it’s doable. This was later put on hold to study the traffic. Now the project is being taken up, he said.

Among the other issues on which the Lt. Governor deliberated were:

Island Development Agency: The Islands Development Agency has been reconstituted under Chairmanship of Hon’ble Home Minister and LG has been designated as the Vice Chairman. The IDA has the mandate to formulate an integrated Master Plan for comprehensive development of all our Island territories, initiate projects and their implementation. The principles of sustainability, people’s participation, eco-system preservation and determination of carrying capacity will be the guiding principles for development. Various tourism and important infrastructure development projects will be taken up through the IDA. A comprehensive report is being prepared for the holistic development of Ross & Smith, Avis Island in Diglipur and Long Island as also other locations in the Lakshadweep group. Besides this, with the support of NITI Aayog, more Islands will be developed in PPP mode through IDA.

Tourism: The Administration is promoting sustainable tourism which has contributed a lot towards revenue earning and maintaining the ecology of these Islands. Last year (i.e. in the year 2017) 4,87,000 tourists visited the Islands which shows an increase of 21.80 percent from the previous year. As part of efforts to provide better tourism infrastructure here, Sea Mohwa Grove Eco- Friendly tourism site was operationalized by the Forest Department at Lalaji Bay in Long Island recently, where other projects are also under consideration through IDA.

Shipping: The sea route to Baratang has been opened since October 1, 2017. Out of the four 150 passenger capacity harbour crafts that were ordered, three have already reached Port Blair and will commence sailing soon. Work is under progress for the two 500-pax capacity vessels and two 1200- pax capacity vessels. Providing additional ships to Southern Group of islands as well as North & Middle Andaman will be a priority.

The work of passenger hall at Hutbay is completed and will become operational soon. The extension work of the existing dry dock by ALHW is also on fast track and is expected to be completed by December, 2018.

Steps are being taken with the help of Central Agencies to augment ship repair facilities in the islands. This will not only give fillip to shipping industry here but also reduce the time required in ship maintenance and repair. This will also generate employment and help in improving the skill-set of persons associated with shipping sector.

All the working CSCs have been linked with Ship Ticketing Advance Reservation System (STARS) besides additional ticketing counters have been opened, one each at Campbell-Bay, Hut Bay and Rangat.

Civil Aviation: Administration is committed towards starting of flight services from Port Blair to Car Nicobar, Campbell Bay and Shibpur for which an MoU has been signed with the Civil Aviation Ministry. Land acquisition process for the construction of airstrips in Shibpur and Campbell Bay is underway and efforts are being undertaken to ensure that the airports will be dual-use and will be available for passenger and defence aircrafts.

Roads & Bridges: About 80 percent works of the National Highway have been awarded and are in different stages of execution while tender for the remaining 20 percent work will be floated soon. The work for the bridge over Humphrey Strait is progressing well while the tender process for the Middle Strait Bridge has been completed. The execution of these works will cut short the present time to half to reach Diglipur from Port Blair.

Telecom: Tender for the Submarine Optical Fibre Cable connecting Chennai and Port Blair and 5 different Islands have been opened on 06.02.2018. Further, the Telecom Commission has granted permission to erect towers in places where the population is over 100 people. The BSNL has been asked to share its towers with private players to expand the telecom coverage. The Central Govt. has also approved the proposal for increasing the Satellite Bandwidth by 1Gbps. The available bandwidth is expected to increase from present 1.3Gbps to 2.7Gbps by end of 2018. This will include augmentation due to satellite bandwidth and use of IP modems.

PRIs & ULB: Under the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, Port Blair has been declared as ‘Open Defecation Free’ on October 2, 2017. Under this Abhiyan, 336 private households’ toilets, 48 community toilets and 35 scattered community toilets were created. In rural area, approval was given for construction of 14,791 household toilets and 141 community toilets, out of which 100% households have been provided with toilets and 99 community toilets have been constructed. Andaman & Nicobar Islands have effectively become open defecation free and declaration for the same will be made soon.

Further PBMC is collecting property tax by adopting Unit Area Rental Value System which has resulted in the increase of revenue collection four times from the earlier system. Under the Smart City scheme, 13,500 street lights have been replaced with LED lights much ahead of the target date. Apart from this, 1300 LED Lights are being installed in the newly created 6 Municipal Wards.

Power: To improve the power situation in Isles, the Nation Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has been tasked to install 15 MW Power Plant in South Andaman by March 31, 2018. Similarly, as a long term solution, 50 MW gas based Power Plant will be installed by NTPC in South Andaman district.

Under the renewable energy sector, the Hon’ble Power Minister has asked the NTPC and the NLC to move forward to install Power Plants with ‘Battery Energy Storage system’. Apart from this, the PGCIL will develop an Energy Management Centre in these Islands for which the Power Ministry will provide funds.

The Administration is taking measures towards self-sufficiency in power generation. Installation of Solar Rooftop Power System and Solar Water Heater System is being made mandatory in all the Govt. and Private buildings for which the Administration will provide financial support.

Health: Administration is committed towards providing better health services to the public. Work for a separate ‘MDR TB ward’ and ‘Eye Burns & Oncology ward’ in G B Pant Hospital have been completed and will be operationalized soon. Apart from this, opening of a Trauma Centre in Dr R P Hospital Mayabunder, Primary Health Centre at Durgapur in Diglipur, Urban Health Centre at Dollygunj, Health Sub Centre at Wrafter Creek Baratang and several other proposals are under consideration.

Agriculture & Fisheries: Different Agricultural schemes of the Govt. of India and latest agricultural techniques are being implemented in these Islands. Administration is also promoting organic farming in the islands for which a month-long awareness campaign is being organized by Department of Agriculture. A Modern Veterinary Hospital at Diglipur and a Composite Livestock Farm has been started at Nanjappa Nagar in Little Andaman.

A new Fish Landing centre is under utilization at Neil Island since September 2017. Apart from this, for the safe berthing of boats, ‘High Density Polyethylene Floating Jetty’ are being constructed in different Islands. The modernized fish markets, one each at Junglighat and Mohanpura are expected to be completed this year itself.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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