By Zubair Ahmed

Despite heavy downpour, the turnout for the Andaman Marathon was commendable, and the Organizers deserve appreciation for that. As announced earlier with pride, as many as six athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia participated in it and in true sportsman spirit beat the Island marathoners in the main event. And, we all clapped and clapped, till they felt that they deserved the applause.

After the devastating 2004 Tsunami, a well-prepared Andaman and Nicobar Islands braced the fury of Cyclone Lehar, which crossed the Islands leaving behind a trail of devastation. With no casualty, the Disaster Management proved its ability to secure human lives by evacuating people from vulnerable areas. Kudos to ANI Admn. and the "never giving up" spirit of the Islanders!

A wave of dissent is simmering throughout the Islands, with rallies, meetings, representations being submitted to the Administration concerned with mainlanders nabbing majority of jobs in the Islands, especially the 420-plus vacancies notified for teachers.

In the half marathon, in General Category female, the Kenyans, Ms. Gladys J. Tarus,  Ms. Everline N. Ancha and Ms. Chenaneat Lorva came First, Second and Third respectively. In the Reserved Category for Islanders female, Ms. Birshi Bhay was 'declared' winner. In the half marathon male, Mr. Daniel Yegum (Kenya), Mr. Antony Moungh (Kenya) and Mr. Gebre Gizachew (Ethiopia) came first, second and third respectively. In the Reserved Category for Islanders male, Mr. Kapil was 'declared' winner.

All the winners truly deserve "applause". There was another category of 10 kms, which was 100% reserved for Islanders. And, once again applause for all those who won their races.

A few decades back, most of the weather forecasts were taken with a pinch of salt. "Chances of rain and sunshine" was a cliché used for weather forecasts. Things have changed. Now, they are able to scientifically predict the speed, intensity, direction and probable time of a cyclone with accuracy to an extent. But, nobody can reduce the speed or intensity, change the direction or postpone a cyclone as per their wish.  Cyclone Lehar came, created havoc and left to "mainland". Applause for the disaster-preparedness!

Contrary to the firm belief, around 1126 applications from mainland have landed at DEO, South Andaman for the 420+ vacancies for teachers. Nothing like speculation! Even if after scrutiny, 50% applications are rejected, there are about 500 applications from mainland with CTET pass. After verification of original testimonials, merit list on the basis of self-marking will be prepared and the results announced.

Now you might be wondering, what is the connection between Andaman Marathon, Cyclone Lehar and Teachers Recruitment.

In Andaman Marathon, all six winners came from outside and took away all the prizes except those 'reserved' for the Islanders. Cyclone Lehar came from outside and created havoc and left. Our share of destruction was however less, as 90% of the fury was "reserved' for mainland. As expected by the 'rumour-mongers' and unforeseen by the Administrator, more than a 1000 applications from the mainland has already reached the shores of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Now, it has to be seen how much mayhem it will generate.

Fortunately, we have an Administrator, who likes to talk his heart unlike his predecessors. Irrespective of the occasion, he touches every issue and tries to convert it into a public spectacle winning huge appreciation and applause.

After the marathon, with his soul-stirring and passionate speech, the Administrator won the hearts and souls of the gathering. They clapped non-stop. He too truly deserved the applause! In fact, the Administrator clinched the opportunity to address those gathered after the culmination of the marathon to clarify or rather express his mind about the confusion or the uproar about Teachers Recruitment. He also utilized the Coop Week function to throw light on the issue.

Referring to rumours that mainland candidates will take away majority of the jobs of teachers, being recruited by the Education Department, the Lt. Governor urged the teachers and students to have confidence in him and reassured them that their interests would be protected and a 'viable' solution arrived at which will stand legal and administrative scrutiny.  He also appealed to the youth not to be misguided by rumours. He said the whole procedure would be fair and transparent.

Now, who are the rumour-mongers? Many delegations have met the Administrator and submitted representations demanding reservation of jobs for the Islanders. Bishnu Pada Ray convened a press meet. Vishal Jolly personally met him. Kuldeep Rai Sharma led a rally and addressed a gathering of candidates and met the Administrator and submitted a representation. Now, who among the three are spreading rumours? All of them are conscious of the fact that there are legal and administrative issues, as a policy is not yet framed. What all of them are demanding individually or collectively is the same - To get an executive order from the Centre for reservation of jobs for the Islanders like it exists in different UTs viz. Daman and Diu, Pondicherry, Delhi etc. What is perplexing is the fact that Kuldeep Rai Sharma's rally and public meeting was an eye-opener and a positive step, whereas all others are rumour-mongers. It’s the same old beaten path Bhopinder Singh had followed. What Island Protection Forum is demanding and other political and social organisations are asking for are the same. And it’s a fact that 1126 applications from mainland have already landed in Andamans.

The Islanders have been smitten not once, but twice - Tsunami farmers issue and Buffer Zone. Hence they are thrice shy now rather than lucky! They are anxious and apprehensive.

The Administrator has already assured that he will not leave any stone unturned in protecting the interests of the Islanders, but with a caveat, as it’s not in his hands. He will approach Prime Minister and other leaders in the Centre.

What the Islanders are genuinely worried is the precarious situation where after a long wait outside the operation theatre, door opens and the doctor comes out, pulls his gloves off and says, "Sorry, I couldn't save him."