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Tuesday, August 3 2021


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I think that movie really helped us. That movie gave us the boost to be in the present moment. Just think about what is in front of you, don't think about past. Today the coaches said just focus on the 60 minutes, just do your job for 60 minutes.

That’s the captain of the women’s hockey team, Rani Rampal, crediting a film that the team watched—after their consecutive losses—for the amazing 1-0 victory against Australia. No, neither the coach nor the team revealed which movie it was—though we’re sure that Shah Rukh Khan is dearly hoping it will turn out to be ‘Chak De India’ (see this amusing Twitter exchange with the team coach). The Telegraph has a heart-warming photo gallery of the ecstatic players—who will now face Argentina in the semi-finals, and make history as the first Indian women’s team to get that far. Indian Express profiles Rani Rampal whose father couldn’t afford to buy her a hockey stick.

Big Story

Big worrying plans for Lakshadweep

The TLDR: A plan to construct luxury beach villas on three islands is just the beginning of an ambitious project to remake Lakshadweep in the image of the Maldives—which is likely to be disastrous both for its people and its ecology.

 

Lakshadweep: Some quick background

The islands: Here are the basic deets

 

  • It is an archipelago of 36 islands off the coast of Kerala, and only 10 are inhabited. The total population: 64,473.
  • Also this: “The biggest islands are no more than 4.5 km across. As coral atolls, their highest elevation is no more than 3 m above sea level. Most of them stand no more than 0.5 m higher.”
  • 97% of the islands are under forest cover—the highest in the country.
  • It is the smallest Union Territory in India, formed in 1956 when it was separated from the Malabar district in Kerala. 
  • There is only one district which elects one member of Parliament. And it falls under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court in Kochi.
  • There is no legislative assembly and the UT is ruled by an Administrator appointed by the President (i.e. the ruling party at the Centre). The current administrator: BJP leader Praful Khoda Patel. 

 

The political firestorm: Back in May, we did a Big Story on why administrator Praful Patel is very unpopular with the locals—primarily because he is pushing through a spate of new rules and regulations which “are perceived to be a threat to the cultural identity of the inhabitants and the sensitive ecology of the region.”

 

The development plan: Most of these new regulations are part of a grand scheme called the Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA)—which has the right to develop any area having ‘bad layout or obsolete development,” all of which is very hazily defined. According to critics:

 

“...[T]he legislation vests such powers with the authority that it can prepare comprehensive development plans for any area and relocate people regardless of their will. It provides for forcible eviction, puts the onus on the owner to develop his holding as per the plan prepared by the authority as also to heavily penalise them in the event of non-compliance.”

 

And LDA itself is all about realising the bigger vision: to transform Lakshadweep into a  prized tourism destination. As Patel told The Print:

 

“The islands are similar to Maldives and we want to develop them on similar lines. We want to develop sustainable infrastructure and promote sustainable tourism. You see Maldives…. tourists are waiting in a queue to visit there.”

 

Ok, tell me about these luxury villas...

The local government has issued tender notices inviting international bids for 370 beach and floating villas to be built on three islands: Minicoy, Kadmat and Suheli. The successful bidders will win exclusive rights—given for 75 years—to build and operate these villas on the allotted land and lagoon area. The project is estimated to cost about Rs 8.06 billion (806 crore).

 

Not a new plan: The big tourism plans were first laid out in a 2019 NITI Aayog report which listed “best possible development strategies” for the “holistic” development of these islands. It describes the projects as “technically feasible, economically profitable and socially acceptable”—all of which is debatable as will become clear below. And it recommends “up-front” waivers from both environmental and coastal zone regulations— arguing it would be a “unique move aimed at creating [a] much-needed conducive environment for private entrepreneurs to invest.” And it specifically narrowed the choices to the three islands—where the villa projects are to be located.

 

A tourist mecca: Mongabay sums up the big vision: “the development of posh resorts, star hotels, and high-profile beachfront modelled after international tourism destinations such as the Maldives.” So much so that the Lakshadweep government has proposed the creation of a dedicated cruise ship which “enables tourists to experience a multi-centre holiday, whereby they spend time at various destinations throughout their trip on cruise ships that vary from small yachts to mega ships and can take place on the ocean and rivers.”

 

Point to note: Currently, only the tiny Bangaram Island is dedicated to tourism—and is uninhabited except for the resorts.

 

Ok, so what’s wrong with that?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

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A list of intriguing things

  • A performance of ‘Les Moutons’ (The Sheep) by the Toronto-based CORPUS dance company
  • Artist Scott Waddell creates stunning life-like portraits in oil
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