Democratic set up like Municipal Council, Zilla Parishad have proved to be ineffective: John M Lobo

Port Blair, Sept. 23: The Local Born’s Community, descendents of Panel Settlers have expressed their strong protest and opposition to the Bill introduced in Parliament by Shri B P Ray, MP for creation of a Legislative Assembly in these Islands.  In this connection, earlier in the year 2005, Shri Manoranjan Bhakta, Ex-Member of Parliament of A&N Islands resorted to hunger strike for non-fulfillment of his 22 demands by the Govt. of India in which demand for Legislative Assembly was one of the demands put forth when judicious decision. It was then resolved to maintain status quo to administer these Islands by the Central Govt. for all purposes. 

Writing to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, the Ex INA Personal, (Retd)  Deputy Conservator of Forests and Former President, Local Born’s Association Shri John M Lobo said, “Andaman & Nicobar Islands has a very small population of 3,80,000 as per 2011 census with no political maturity. Any attempt for Legislative Assembly for such meagre population is going to be suicidal due to its Small Place Syndrome”.

He further explained that the present system of governance by Central Government is effective for heterogeneous population of different groups and minorities with no voice.

The Islands have no major Industries or other resources to earn revenue and are totally dependent on Central Govt. Experimentation of Pradesh Council in A&N Islands failed due to political immaturity and lack of education of the population.

Lobo further speaking on behalf of the Local Borns’ Community said that democratic set up like Municipal Council, Zilla Parishad have proved to be ineffective. They failed to address necessities of life like water, electricity, road and sanitation etc.  Empowerment of such institutions in the form of Assembly will be disastrous.

“These Islands comprise of different categories of people namely Categories I, II, III and IV.  The last category (migratory population which constitutes 60% of the total population is associated with political parties holding key position is only in favour of Legislative Assembly just to get rid of the control of the Central Govt. for persuading personal interests”.

During devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit islands, penal settlers suffered most – lost their agriculture land and accommodation and their livelihood and are the most vulnerable groups requiring safeguards. Statehood/Assembly if given to A&N Islands will completely resort lawlessness and anti-social activities, which would be beyond the control of the Local Administration and the GOI as well, he explained.

These Islands have a strategic location due to its proximity to the South East and a vast economic zone. Legislative Assembly is a very sensitive issue for which the Centre has to give a very serious thought before a final decision is arrived at.

Explaining about the security threats the Islands and the Nation as a whole faces, the veteran INA Personnel said, “The islands face security threats due to infiltration of Foreign Nationals particularly from Bangladesh and Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia. I reiterate that these issues concerning our security and geo-strategic importance of these islands needs to be examined thread-bare before any decision on Assembly for A & N Islands is taken”.

“The biggest threat to these Island are from China in Co-Co Island where they have started their Nuclear base hardly 150 Km from Narcondam Island of India, a challenge to the Islands and the Nation as a whole. More so when we are also surrounded by neighbouring foreign powers viz. Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and of course, Sri Lanka in South, whose poachers are always interrupted and captured within our territorial waters by Coast Guard”.

To substantiate, the above statements Lobo gave examples of news published in various newspapers including the Administration’s mouthpiece ‘The Daily Telegrams’.

‘Poachers Being Helped By Paid Agents Here – C – In – C’ appeared in the Daily Telegrams dated 16th April, 2007 a mouth piece of A & N Administration is the strongest evidence. 

‘In An Interview, The C-In-C, A & N Command P P Raj Kumar, Had Attributed The Existence Of Some Paid Agents Here, Who Are Responsible For The Recent Hike In The Poaching Activities In The Island Exclusive Economic Zone’. The Poachers Appear To Have Paid Agents In The Islands And This Is One Of The Reason That Command Is Not Able To Put An End To Poaching. We Do Not Know Who These Agents Are’ mentioned the Daily Telegrams.

This statement made by Commander-in-Chief, A & N Command before a handful of media persons on board INS Guldar is a clear indication that there are anti-social elements functioning in these islands. 

Further, the “Defense Ministry objects Assembly for Islands” appeared in Express, Monday the 9th Jan, 06 Port Blair, Lobo explains.

‘Port Blair Jan 8: “The Andaman & Nicobar Islands, may soon get a Legislative Assembly with the Union Home Ministry setting in motion the process.  The move to set up Assembly in the Islands got a fillip after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the Islands on January 3 that he would take up the issue with the Cabinet. The Union Territory of A & N Islands has a 21 Member Municipal Council, Goa and Delhi as Union territories, had their Assemblies. But for the Andaman, to get this status, the Govt, will have to amend the Constitution and move subjects of the new Assembly.  The demand is hanging fire as the Defense Ministry has severe objections.  It has argued that the Islands are of strategic importance and should be administered by the Centre.

Based on the above analogy, John M Lobo has strongly opposed any move towards the formation of Assembly in these islands.