By Zubair Ahmed

Don't make democracy look so weird and ridiculous. Democracy is a good idea. Don't kill the idea. People, who have been denied a democratic setup and have no say in major policy decisions should not be derided by showing them a kid's version of the great system called democracy.

Moreover, the students who participated in this 'version' might mistake it as part of their political science class. In short, 'chosen' voters participated in this exercise, like it happens in banana republics.

Now, its of no use discussing 'threadbare' the process adopted to finalize the permanent location of the new college - ANCOL. And, this article doesn't wish to go into the merits and de-merits of both locations, as that is not the real issue.

The site at Chakkargaon is very 'beautiful' and enchanting. Its in the proximity of all 'stakeholders'. The set of 'students' and 'faculties' who voted for the location are also undoubtedly credulous. So everything is set.

There may be dissenting voices somewhere outside, far far away from those who matters. They are incredulous, naive and are sure to have personal axes to grind. So, in this format of democracy, their voices should not count. Or, they don't at all deserve such an institution. All logic fails when such an institution is placed in a rural milieu.

When everything was decided, this preposterous show was just the last nail. Anyway, I still think there is a small space left to express one's opinion. If that too can be sabotaged by staging another futile exercise, its most welcome.

The new college was a good idea. Everybody hailed the decision. There was a demand to place the college in South Andaman, so that the notion that Port Blair is Andaman and Nicobar Islands is changed. The idea was also welcomed. No stakeholders expressed any objection to the idea, when the Administrator mentioned it at various platforms. Indeed, it was a welcome idea!

A committee with eminent persons chaired by the Chief Secretary was constituted. Consensus was reached on the location of the college. The majority report was shunted and a fresh two-member committee was constituted and a single member minority report has been finally accepted.

The site at Chakkargaon is no doubt, a very beautiful and apt location for anything - a mall, housing complex, entertainment hub or any other commercial activity. And, it is indeed suitable for an educational institution too. Nobody objects to that. Like, the same 'stakeholders' if given an option to select between Haddo and Chakkargaon will undoubtedly vote for Haddo.

Why the new college should be placed in a rural milieu is not to make it a second-grade college, as the students who could not make it into JNRM were accommodated in the new college for obvious reasons. So, the question of upper-hand or competition can be over-ruled.

There are hundreds of students studying in Class X to XII in various schools in South Andaman, who are also the real stakeholders, who might need to decide to join a college in the coming years. Why they are not part of the 'democratic process' is quite incomprehensible.

When there was sufficient time to decide, we kept procrastinating, and when there is no time to decide, major decisions are taken, and 'stakeholders' are left with no choice!

Since many years, we have been missing opportunities one after another. Post tsunami, the Islands got an opportunity to plan and utilize the available resources including land.

All the permanent tsunami shelters were placed inside Port Blair and in a very beautiful location in Bambooflat. The beneficiaries were actually from Nicobar and Katchal. They would not have resisted any move, if they had been rehabilitated in N&M Andaman District. Prime land, that too in the commercial hub of Port Blair and surrounding areas were used for the shelters. And, we kept lamenting when we missed NIT due to lack of land that too inside Port Blair.

Most of the prime commercial space in the capital city is occupied by Government buildings. On both sides of the road, archaic govt offices greet the tourists, and we harp about a beautiful city. And, residential quarters are being built in Goal Ghar! And we again rue about lack of revenue land for commercial activities.

When we could not pan our vision beyond the radius of 25 kms, how can we expect to have holistic development from Campbell Bay to Diglipur?

The decision has been taken and let it be. Lack of vision or shortsightedness of policy makers are a bane of the Islands. Nobody thinks beyond a two or three year frame. Not a single development was result of long term planning. Quick-fix band-aid solutions to searing  problems add to the woes.

Post Script: In the 70s, approximately 300 Nicobari tribal families were uprooted from Car Nicobar and settled in an hamlet in Little Andaman called Harminder Bay. The raison detre was quite interesting. The Admn set on the mission after it felt that the population of Car Nicobar Island had grown to 10000 living in an area of 49 sq miles, which might pose serious space problem for plantations.

Its forty years now. Population in Car Nicobar might have increased manifold, but it hasn't reached an alarming proportion demanding decongestion. Is it true about Port Blair?