Protecting indigenous tribes, preserving the fragile ecology, providing basic amenities such as drinking water and preventing illegal migration and encroachments are some of the main challenges confronting Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
In an interaction with journalists at The Hindu on Monday, editors of newspapers and magazines from Andaman & Nicobar listed out the priorities before the administration in the Union Territory comprising over 500 islets.
“Air connectivity is critical. At present we have five flights in and out of Andamans. A one-way ticket to Chennai costs about Rs.7,000. During summer and peak tourist seasons, this ticket could cost even Rs.20,000,” says S.P. Karikalvalavan, editor, Andaman Murasu, a Tamil weekly.
As the ships take over 50 hours to reach Chennai and up to 5 days to Kolkata, air travel is the preferred mode for emergency health services. Even though the administration spends a lot on health care services, the Andamanese have to be flown to Chennai for specialised and emergency services.
“Like in North East, the Centre should subsidise air fare to Andamans,” he stressed.
The editors were alarmed by the statement of the Andaman & Nicobar Member of Parliament Bishnu Pada of a plan to evict the Jarawa tribes from their homeland and resettle them in an uninhabited island.
One of the six tribes, the Jarawas were out of bounds till the laying of Andaman Trunk Road. “Already, the population of Onge tribe, resettled in Dugong creek from their native island of Little Andamans, is dwindling,” says R.P. Sharma, publisher/editor, The Andaman Wave.
There are only about 250 Jarawas, 100 Onges and 38 Great Andamanese.
“At the present rate, we will be able to learn about the tribes of Andamans only from books a few decades from now,” he says.
While the activists have been demanding the closure of the trunk road to save the Jarawa tribe as per the Supreme Court directions, Asheem Poddar, chief editor, The Daily Telegrams, suggests improvement of waterways as an alternative route to connect middle and northern Andamans before closing down the 90-km stretch of the trunk road from Jirkatang to Middlestrait, crossing Jarawas territory.
“If not stopped, illegal migration from Bangladesh could create social unrest in the islands in future,” cautions A.P. Mohammed, editor, Sahil Ki Ore, a Hindi daily.
Hired by contractors for construction activities in the wake of tsunami, the numbers of the Bangladeshi immigrants are going up steadily, he says estimating it to be 30,000 to 40,000 at present