Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Thursday, May 02, 2013


By CJ Rajendran in Lakshdweep

At Lakshadweep Islands, which is not quite the paradise you would have imagined. Muhammad Basheer is the only and well-known Cameramen in the island of Kavarati, to whom islanders are used to reach for the video coverage of wedding ceremonies. He is roaming besides the sea by carrying his camera on the left shoulder. As all other youngster in islands he was studied in Kerala and successfully attained graduation in Arabic language.

During his Kerala days he was being dreamt about to own a Motor cycle. Five years ago his dream accomplished with unlimited pain and sorrows.
It was purchased from Mangalore and transported it from Mangalore to Kavarati in a big barge. Due to bad weather and high tides it was taken one weeks time. Although this tribal region has many concessions and exceptions, Muhammed Basheer has spent around Sixty Thousand Rupees for his loving motor cycle.

After the eventful years of half decades now this reporter is unfortunately compelled to witness that the same young man is curiously roaming through the islands in a BSA SLR bicycle which was brought to him by his late father during his child hood years.

Why? Laughingly, Muhammad Basheer replied, “ I have to spend between 150 to 200 rupees for a litre of petrol. It is impossible to bear by poor person like me. Marriage season is round the corner. Unlike earlier seasons this time I have to wander by this bicycle.”

Lakshadweep islands are unique in many counts. Recently an international agency had selected these isolated islands as the most peaceful regions in the worlds. According to the census report 2011, Lakshadweep stood 2nd in highest literacy rate.

With the immeasurable hardships of poor infrastructure facilities, islands remain prosperous records in the field of health, life expectancy, male female ratio, law and order, irradiating atrocities against women and children (here groom has to pay dowry to bride) etc. In fact islanders have to pay highest price in India for petrol; Rs 85 as government price, which might very occasionally reached to few people and Rs 150 to 200 in black market.

“Recently petrol price in Manipur has skyrocketed to 240 Rupees per litre. Scenario in that state is much vulgar than the islands.”

While this reporter tried to compare Lakshadweep with Manipur, some of the agitated youth who were very much acquainted the happenings in the country emphatically denied.

“High petrol price hike in Manipur has been donated by the Indefinite blockade at the Nagaland – Manipur border. Is it not an insurgency related issue? In contrast, Lakshadweep is one of the very few places where you could not see a single pie of either terrorism nor fundamentalism. Most of the time jails in our islands are vacant. Policemen are very idle because most of the time they don’t have any work. You might not trice out not even a single murder case in any of our 9 peopled islands. How dare you to compare Manipur scenario with Lakshadweep?”

Muhammad Ali, Secretary, Lakshadweep Unit of CPIM indicates the new development paradigm of the Administration which neglects the basic amenities of the islands.

“We have an Airport at Agati island. But we don’t have a petrol pump. Air India and Kingfisher has had daily to and fro services between Kerala and Agati. But most of the time we don’t have ship transportation Between Kerala and Lakhadweep. We have helicopter services between Kavarati and Agathi. But we don’t have daily ship or vessel between these most populous islands.”

Kerala is the nearest neighboring state. Now a days petrol pumps run by either PSUs or private players are visible even the villages of Kerala. All of them are un-relented to experiment in any one of islands. All are eyeing for profits, not for social emancipation

Minicoy is the southern most island .It is very near to Maldives. Minicoy has had socio cultural linkage with Maldives. Both of them are speaking Mahal language. But during the days of independence struggle and formation of the nation, people in Minicoy wholeheartedly stood with India. Muhammed Aslam, a patriotic young man differentiated petroleum scenario between Minicoy and Maldives.

“ We are tired by asking for a petrol pump at Minicoy. Always we are getting the same reply of environmental isolation and poor infrastructural facilities. Both this issues are existed in Maldives also. But there are many petrol pumps in Maldives. There it is very cheaply and being easily available.”

At the advent of globalisation, people were being mesmerised towards privatisation. Islanders expected that private petroleum companies Reliance, Essar. Shell might have been started petrol pumps in Islands. None of them are interested due to the burgeoning transportation cost. Many decades ago, 1st Administrator of the islands, Murkot Ramunny had preconceived the forthcoming situation. In 1962 he has formed Lakshadweep Corporative Marketing Federation, governed by the democratically elected people of Lakshadweep. Since its inception to till today most of the essential items including petrol are being transported and distributed by the Federation. Presently NCP leader, Thangal Koya, is the president of Federation.

He explains difficulties and limitations, “We are bringing petrol from BPCL, Kerala through barges. It is a Herculean task as it is very difficult to get barges for regular transportation. In a year maximum four or five trips. It is highly inadequate to satisfy the utility of petrol in the islands.”

A barge contains 120 barrels of petrol (one barrel equals to 200 litres of petrol). Infact availability of petrol in an year is being squeezed to 1000 litres. How does is it distributed among 60000 people?

“We have distributed special cards to each vehicle owner. Whenever barge comes, we used to supply 5 litre petrol to each card owners. We know that it is hardly to satisfy anybody. But we could not do any thing.”

Although most of the time islanders are not getting enough petrol from Federation, it is easily available in black markets with inflated rates. Before the last price hike at Kavarati, cost of one liter petrol was 120 Rupees in black market. After the recent hike it is surged to around 200 Rupees per litre. Interior islands it is burgeoned up to 250 Rupees per liter. Marketing Federation is very vocal about lack of transportation facilities and unavailability of barges. Surprisingly powerful black marketers are not suffering from the same disease. They are pouring petrol lavishly and reaping crores of rupees. Authorities are closing their eyes. Innocent islanders are become mute spectators.
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