Development for prosperity

Aboobacker K.P

The A&N islands consists about 572 Islands, Isles rocks etc with a costal line of 1962 Km having total area of 8249 (As per latest reports A&N group of Islands consist 836 islands, isles and rocks including 20 unnamed Islands). Out of this geographical area about 7170.69 that 86% is covered by forests. As per available records 25 Islands in Andaman group and 13 islands in Nicobar group are inhabited. It is true and fact that we have to protect and conserve the environment so that the eco-system of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and also the entire glob is secured in balance. This will help us to survive in a clean and healthy atmosphere besides preserving a better inhabitable world for the prosperity.
Until recently, the main source of employment to the islands was, the remaining man power being utilized in farming, petty business, tourism and other services. With the fast increasing population both by the regeneration from within and influx from outside, the islanders witnessed receding employment opportunities. Thanks to the destiny, makers a few sectors such as fishing and tourism have been thrown open having ample scopes to the educated /semi-skilled work force for self employment. Not long before, some major wood based industries of A&N islands viz. Andaman Timber industries Bamboo Flat, Jayashree timber Products Bakultala, Asian ply woods Long Island and other private saw mills of different Islands were closed down in the wake of restrictions imposed on timber extraction rendering about 50 thousands families directly and indirectly dependent on them jobless.
But as far as A&N Islands are concerned there are many such untouched and un-worked Islands which have neither been notified as national parks, sanctuaries or tourist spots. These islands process many forest resources and wealth. As per the directives of the Hon’ble Supreme e Court timber could be harvested from the forest area of the Islands as per approved working plans. The possibilities of timber extraction from such untouched and  unworked islands is to be examined by the department of environment and forests of A&N Administration  explore to cater  the local requirements of timber, besides exploring the possibility of reopening of some of the locked-up wood based industries. This would help in generation of employment opportunities to accommodate the educated and unemployed youth of these islands and to minimize, if not curb, the illicit felling and smuggling of timber from forest. The statistics of quantity of hand sawn timber seized and the number of cases booked under IFA, 1927 from the date of restriction on timber extraction imposed in these islands are to be verified. The people friendly programs for poverty reduction, employment generation, and creation of rural infrastructure and provision of minimum services are required to be planned and implemented without ignoring the minimum needs of the target groups on the one side and protection of the environment on the other side. It would, however, be futile to protect and conserve environment in a mechanical way, if the citizens do not live without starvation to witness and reap the fruits of such policies. The survival of mankind depends up on the survival of animal and plants. In other words, the universe and its resources are made by the creator for the benefit and well being of mankind, the best of his creations, with an obligation to live a sacred life enjoying to bountiful facilities without forgetting the Creators. This all initiatives need to be taken with as humane touch and not for the sake of enforcing man made law.
The existence of the Islands is under threat due to unrestrained import of construction materials such as River sand, Cement, steel and also the increasing number of vehicles creating environment pollutions to a great extend. The requirement of river/sea sand for domestic needs of the people/Govt. departments could be met to some extend by scientific sand mining from uninhabited islands, but we have ourselves imposed unreasonable restrictions on sand mining at our own peril. The present market rate/sale price of the river sand imported from mainland and the sea sand (very rare item) of these Islands are too high and is beyond the reach of common man. The department of environment and forest of A&N Administration has started reducing the annual target/ outrun of harvesting of timber making timber an sporadic item for the islanders. A major part of the men power (skilled, unskilled) and the infrastructure which was in use for timber extraction are now either idle or diverted to other works. It is a better way to utilize those men power and infrastructures to mine sea sand and timber scientifically from identified areas and sell them through the forest depots on payment to the public/govt. departments, and Panchayat Raj Institutions. With a flexible law in place, we may restrain illegal sand mining/timber extraction besides providing job opportunities to tens of thousands of our youth also ease the vulnerable Islands from being over-burdened by avoidable imports. 
Connectivity between Port Blair and rural area of south Andaman from shoal bay- 19 to Manjery of Ferrargunj Tehsil is one important aspect for the prosperity and development of rural population. Marketing facilities for rural products such as diary, poultry and agricultural products of the village to be planned according to the need and availability. The permanent connectivity between Port Blair and Bamboo Flat other than vehicle ferry is an important need of the day. According to the latest data 10000-15000 people are travelling between Bamboo Flat and Chatham daily. This includes Govt. employees, students, diary and agriculture (Veritable) vendors etc. If Bamboo Flat and Chatham are connected with Sea Bridge or otherwise the entire rural village of Ferrargunj Tehsil may develop and flourish unimaginably. It is learnt that the NHIDCL floats tender for consultancy services for DPR of two Lane Bridge between Chatham and Bamboo flat. The introduction of vehicle ferry service between Mithakhari and Janglighat is also one of the points to ease the marketing of agriculture, dairy and poultry products of the village from Tirur to Chouldary and Jirkatang to Mithakhari, this apart the govt. employees, students and other people travel daily from these villages to Port Blair may also benefited. The rural roads are vital to economic growth and measure of poverty alleviation in the village. Similarly the agriculture department should introduce special scheme to promote cultivation of all type of crops (paddy, vegiatbles, and rabi crops etc.) in vacant cultivatable land available in thousands of hectors. Many hectors of land which was under paddy cultivation have been abandoned for no reason. The cost/value of agriculture and non agriculture land of 53 villages of Ferrargunj Tehsil will increase and remarkable revolution in the tourism and fisheries sector may take place. At present the livelihood of the people confined to the govt. services only. Thus, we must go for other options also except govt. services as livelihood, so that good number of educated unemployed youths could be accommodated in tourism, fisheries and others self-employment ventures.
The Bamboo flat area is proposed to be the part of Port Blair Municipal council. If there will be no connectivity with this area the civic body of the council cannot do anything constructively to develop the area, it is possible only after the proposed two lane bridge between Chatham and Bamboo flat is constructed. It is also one of the facts and need that the Ferrargunj Tehsil is to be bifurcated and notified as two Tehsils one with the head quart at Chouldary and another at Wimberlygunj. The office of the Assistant Commissioner, South Andaman is to be shifted to Ferrargunj.
Information, education and communication plays pivotal role in creating awareness among the rural mass. Inclusive and sustainable developmental measures must be initiated to create assets and infrastructures with particular emphasis on rural areas so that prosperity reaches the rural populations as well. The UT/district level officers connected with the rural development, electricity, department land revenue, Agriculture, Veterinary Services, Fishery, roads, bridges and water supply, education, Health care and sanitation who are generally stationed within the limits of Port Blair are expected to go to the people of rural area to change the destiny of the marginalized rural people. In particular, the offices of Electricity Division (rural) Directorate of Agriculture, and Animal Husbandry & veterinary services should be facilitate setting up their offices somewhere between Sippighat to Shoal bay instead of the Port Blair town. The Panchayat Raj Institutions need to be vested with more powers as institutions of self governance to formulate and implement schemes. The viability of restoring A&N Pradesh Council with executive powers, which remains dormant, needs to be explored for larger involvement of public representatives in decision making and policy formulation till such time that an Assembly is established in these Islands.
Unless the villages are developed, the nation cannot prosper, not to speak of these islands. The father of the nation was right when he said the soul of India resides in the villages and hence our destiny makers may like to start accelerating the processes of developments for prosperity right away, since time is running out fast and we should like realize the dreams of India a super power by 2020.
The writer is the General Secretary of Trinamool Congress Party, A & N State Unit.

Saturday, 20 October, 2018