Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First-time Hartal in Kadmat Island

By Shevlin Sebastian

Kerala's strike culture is having its impact, 400 kms away, across the seas.
For the first time, in its history, the people on the tiny island of Kadmat, in the Lakshadweep archipelago, are planning a hartal today (September 24). 

Their complaint: for three weeks, fruits, vegetables, wheat, flour, table rice, salt and many other items has not arrived at the island from Kochi. Rahmath Begum, the port assistant at Kadmat, confirmed it. 

Apparently, the hydraulic pump on the crane which is used by the ship – the MV Lakshadweep Sea – belonging to the Lakshadweep Development Corporation Limited (LDCL) is not working.

Vivek Agarwal, the general manager, of the LDCL, said that the pump has been handed over to the Cochin Shipyard for repairs. “But because of the Onam holidays, there has been a delay in repairing it,” he said.

Now the islanders are running out of food. “We are very angry,” said schoolteacher Abdul Gafoor. “We are wholly dependent on Kochi for our food.”

So the traders are planning a hartal tomorrow. P. Haris, the Vice President of the Kadmat Island Merchants' Welfare Association said that they will hold a dharna in front of the additional sub-divisional office as well as the port assistant's office.

KN Kasmikoya, the sub-divisional officer, affirmed that the merchants had complained to him regarding the shortage. “I am working closely with the LDCL to resolve the issue,” he says. “You must understand that all the items are brought by sea. Sometimes, there are problems.”

Meanwhile, the enterprising Haris suggests an immediate solution. “The LDCL has another ship, the MV Arabian Sea, which operates on the Kavaratti route,” he said. “This ship can alternate with the MV Lakshadweep Sea so that we can get all the foodstuffs.”

The island, which consists wholly of members of the scheduled tribes, has a population of 6500. And it is only 10.5 kms long and 600 metres in width. During the tourist season people come from all over the world. “It is one of the most beautiful spots on earth,” says Kasmikoya. But without proper food, it might not be an exciting place for visitors. 

(The New Indian Express, Kerala edition)

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