As the Kerala Legislative Assembly is set to pass a resolution, on May 31, seeking to remove Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, CPI(M) Members of Parliament from the state hit out against the administration of the Union Territory for denying them permission to visit the islands. A few CPI(M) leaders, including Elamaram Kareem, AM Ariff and V Sivadasan, alleged that their permission to visit Lakshadweep was rejected by the administration, citing the COVID-19 situation. The lawmakers said they wanted to visit the Union Territory and speak to the residents to understand how the controversial administrative reforms, introduced by BJP leader Praful Kohoda Patel, will affect them.
"It had been decided that a team of CPI(M) members from Kerala visit Lakshadweep to assess the existing situation there and to get a direct account of how the reforms and policies introduced by the Administrator impacted the people there. An application had been submitted to the (administration) to give permission for the visit...we got an official intimation from the Additional District Magistrate of Lakshadweep, asking us to postpone our visit as it wasn't desirable now because of the COVID-19 situation," MP Elamaram Kareem said in a Facebook post.
Incidentally, according to reports, on May 29, the Lakshadweep administration has introduced new travel restrictions that will come into effect from May 30, Sunday. It said that the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Kavaratti, will be the single point officer who is authorised to issue the entry permit to Lakshadweep until further notice. An entry permit is generally mandatory to enter the Union Territory. There are several authorities designated to issue the entry permit for different categories. This includes the Administrator, Chief Protocol Officer, Additional District Magistrate and Administrative Officer in Kochi, among others.
Coincidentally, the restrictions come at a time when residents on the islands and many from Kerala, including politicians and actors, have been strongly protesting the new administrative reforms which, they say, will destroy the traditional life and cultural diversity of Lakshadweep residents. Many, including the Kerala government and legislative members, have also called for the removal of Praful Khoda Patel from the post.
Read: An assault on culture and nature: Why Lakshadweep is against Administrator Patel
Meanwhile, the Lakshadweep administration cited the rise in COVID-19 cases for introducing new travel restrictions. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as on May 30 (Sunday), 2,006 persons in Lakshadweep currently have COVID-19. However, sources in the Lakshadweep administration said that there has been a dip in COVID-19 cases due to the existing lockdown. Lakshadweep reported its first ever COVID-19 case on January 3, 2021, nearly a month after BJP leader Parul Khoda Patel took charge as the Administrator. Many residents and lawmakers have accused the BJP leader of relaxing COVID-19 regulations in Lakshadweep, including earlier quarantine and testing rules, which led to a spike in the number of persons affected by COVID-19.
The Lakshadweep admin does not want the parliament members from Kerala to visit the island. Suddenly, they got a 'revelation' about the COVID scenario in the country! Didn't they know this when they destroyed the peace & livelihood on the island? Why scared when questioned?β V P Sanu (@VP_Sanu) May 30, 2021
V Sivadasan also took to Facebook to register his protest for denying permission to enter the Union Territory. βThe Lakshadweep Administrator is trying to sabotage our attempt to visit the place and listen to the people. As Members of Parliament of this country, we have the responsibility and rights to intervene in the issues of the people in Lakshadweep. The Administrator must not stand in our way with a cunning strategy. Whoever thinks they can prevent us from travelling to Lakshadweep and can isolate and suppress the people there, will be resisted,β Sivadasan said.
Administrator Praful Khoda Patel introduced drafts of reforms, including the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, and an amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules. Scores of government officials lost their jobs.
Read: Lakshadweep contract employees face job cuts, uncertainty amid administrative reforms
Meanwhile, as part of the new travel restrictions to Lakshadweep, For those who are still in the islands, all entry permits can be extended by one week by the respective Deputy Collectors, block development officers of the islands concerned. For a re-entry permit, a fresh permit needs to be obtained from the ADM.