The Kerala High Court on Tuesday, June 22, stayed two controversial orders of the Lakshadweep administration. The court ordered a stay on the administration's decisions to close down dairy farms on the islands and change the midday meal diet of school children by excluding chicken, beef, and other meat from the menu, reported The Indian Express.
'Switching Over To New Menu Not Recommended'
The court observed that prima facie switching over to a different menu, with the exclusion of chicken and meat from the mid-day meal scheme of schools in Lakshadweep, would run contrary to the National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in schools. It ordered that the serving of food, including meat, chicken, fish and egg, and other items to the schoolgoing children of the island be continued until further orders. The court also ordered that the functioning of the dairy farms be continued until further orders.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly stayed these orders on a PIL filed by Ajmel Ahmed, a lawyer who is a resident of Kavaratti in Lakshadweep. In his petition, Ahmed contended that orders violate right to life and privacy guaranteed through Article 21. He also argued that the decisions were targeted at the culture and eating habits of the islanders. It also contended that the decision to shut down dairy farms and auction off the animals was taken without any due consultations with the elected local bodies on the islands.
Why Are Islanders Angry?
Praful Khoda Patel took over the administration of the island in December last year. Ever since then he has proposed a slew of reforms that target the Mulsim-majority population in the island. The proposals range from a ban on beef, disqualification of people with more than two children who wish to contest the village council elections, to taking over land belonging to the locals for the purpose of "development" without safeguarding the interests of the landowners.
However, perhaps the most controversial proposal is the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021. This would allow the administration to acquire the land of residents to build highways, railway lines and other infrastructure projects. This is a cause of concern as it will cause more damage to the fragile ecology of the island. Moreover, it does not gurantee the rights of the landowner. Section 72 of the draft proposal allows the administration to evict a person from a property that "he is not entitled to occupy".
The administrator has also proposed a ban on the sale of beef and the slaughter of cows, calves, and bulls. According to Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, no person can directly or indirectly sell, transport, offer for sale, or buy beef or beef products in any form anywhere in the islands, with violators facing up to 10 years in jail.