Sunday, January 5, 2014

News Analysis: When Seeking a Solution

News Analysis:
When Seeking a Solution

By Zubair Ahmed

On the issue of employment to the Islanders, the initial response of the Administration was kind of frustration and displeasure, as nothing had been happening on this front for a long time. The Lieutenant Governor came out lashing on his predecessors as well as the Member of Parliament, and the PRIs and even expressed his anguish in a tweet saying that since 2007, when the arrangement was stopped, there was no action from anywhere. He felt that he took a pro-active step to unearth the buried posts and provide employment opportunities. There is no denial on the part that he felt it necessary that the acute despair and despondency amongst the Islanders can be only addressed by providing the educated youth employment opportunities.

The Lieutenant Governor's letter to the Home Minister on the issue of preferential treatment to Islanders in employment is based more on the angst erupting in the society and seeking a remedy from Ministry of Home Affairs.

However, it becomes pertinent to look beyond the emotional outburst and have  a pragmatic approach to the issue. When he was seen expressing at various forums that 'a viable solution needs to be explored safeguarding the interests of the Islanders within legal and administrative framework', the communication sent to the Ministry fails to address the issue through proper justifications.

Apart from the reasons like the remoteness of the geographically scattered territory, forest cover, poor connectivity, stringent forest laws and lack of educational institutions for higher education, the reasons why the Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Home Affairs earlier rejected the proposal and the changed scenario should have been communicated.

Instead of putting the onus on the Ministry of Home Affairs to find a solution, some homework would have gone a long way suggesting a way out from the precarious situation. The Daman and Diu arrangement has its own lacunae, which can again attract litigation.

Soon after the Supreme Court order in 1991, the arrangement of local candidates continued till 2005, when finally the local certificate was declared invalid for employment. There had been an attempt to promulgate the “Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Regulation” by the President of India under Article 240 of constitution and a draft regulation was even sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs vide letter No.18-134/83-Legal dated 25.9.1988.

This was followed by several letters by Lt. Governor Ishwari Prasad Gupta dated 16.6.2000 and Lt Governor N. N. Jha dated 19.12.2001 and 11.9.2002.

Soon before the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice communicated on 22 February 2007, that the promulgation of proposed "The Andaman & Nicobar Islands Public Employment Regulation", is neither justified administratively nor sustainable from constitutional or legal angles, it had sent more than five reminders on 7 Feb 2006, 11 August 2006, October 2006, November 2006 and on 22 January 2007 asking the ANI Administration for detailed comments with justification for such a Regulation for which there was no response.

In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs in February 2006 had sought the break-up figures of employment from 2001 to 2005 to which the ANI Admn submitted that out of 1318 appointments, only seven non-Islander candidates had applied, out of which two were employed. As the Admn was following the OM of 1984 issued by MHA, where only local candidates could apply, it had helped in preventing the non-Islanders from applying. The Ministry felt that the number of persons applying from outside is negligible based on the figures submitted and the proposal was rejected.

Since 2005, the situation has drastically changed. The mode of communication has improved and most of the posts are advertised online. Unfortunately, the letter sent by the Lieutenant Governor does not mention figures about the status of non-Islanders applying for jobs since 2006. It is learnt from reliable sources that about 161 non-Islanders have already applied for the 422 posts advertised for teachers recruitment, which is more than 40%. The facts and figures, which is not in the public domain, could have given enough teeth to the letter justifying the demand for preferential treatment for the Islanders.

The Administration though, has precisely sensed the mood of the Islanders, which reflects in the letter, a sincere exercise with proper justifications based on facts and figures could have been appreciable.

It is also significant that the Administration could have invited suggestions from the civil society and looked outside too for viable solutions.  Instead of viewing representations from the civil society and organisations as letters of demand or dissent, it could have paved way for a democratic approach.

LG Writes to Home Minister on Domicile Issue

LG Writes to Home Minister on Domicile Issue
Proposes Preferential Treatment to Local People in Recruitment
Seeks Guidance on Modalities from Ministry of Home Affairs

By Zubair Ahmed

Since the notification of 422 posts in Education Dept by Andaman and Nicobar Administration, there has been huge outpouring of people's anguish over candidates from mainland applying for the posts. Irrespective of political parties, local associations, unemployed youth fronts and the member of parliament, everyone has taken up the issue and is engaged in organising demonstrations, making representations and venting their anger through different channels.

In response, the Lieutenant Governor has been making statements in various forums that the ANI Administration is seriously concerned about the predicament and will leave no stone unturned to address this issue and take up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs and work out a viable solution which can stand legal and administrative scrutiny.

In a communication, DO No. 45-323(1)/2012-PW dated 14-12-2013, addressed to the Home Minister, the Lieutenant Governor has apprised MHA about the need for protecting the interests of the Islanders in employment.

Citing the existing arrangement, the UT of Daman and Diu has, the ANI Administration too has proposed to give preference/weightage to local people in direct recruitment in respect of Group 'C' and 'B' (non-gazetted posts) in terms of a letter of MHA dated October 14, 2013 issued to the UT of Daman and Diu. The Admn has also sought guidance of MHA on the modalities for giving such weightage/preference to local people, within the rules.

In the letter, the Administrator writes about "the deepest concern about the lack of job opportunities for the educated youth of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the resultant sense of acute despair and despondency amongst them."

Enlightening the Home Minister about the remoteness of the Island territory, he writes that "the Andaman and Nicobar Group of Islands are located in the Bay of Bengal nearly 1200 kms from Chennai and Kolkata. The people of these Islands reside in 37 islands extending over an area of more than 700 kms. The geographical location of the Islands makes it very difficult for young educated people to pursue job opportunities in the public and private sectors on the mainland. Moreover, a major part of these Islands - approximately 94% - is covered under forest (reserved as well as deemed) and there is very little manufacturing, entrepreneurial or service sector industry here. Our physical remoteness and the strategic importance of these Islands has further compounded the problems we are facing following the closure of the timber industry, the introduction of stringent provisions under environment and forest laws, the absence of a University or Medical College and also very poor connectivity in all areas, be it air, shipping or internet."

He further adds, "We, therefore, find ourselves in a position where the employment opportunities have shrunk enormously over the past few years. This has created an extremely adverse psychological condition amongst the people here."

"The situation has reached a stage where there is a huge outpouring of the people's anguish at all levels and in all forums, be it the media, through rallies, agitations/dharnas and other means. We are extremely conscious of the fact that this anguish should not be allowed to change to anger."

About the prevailing unemployment status, he writes, "As on date, we have 41003 registered unemployed youth in these Islands which inter alia includes Graduates, Post Graduates and technically qualified persons. Such numbers, though not very high from a national point of view, actually constitute a significant proportion (aged 18-60) of these Islands which is approximately 2,35,610."

Suggesting a way out of the precarious situation, the Administrator wrote, "Under these circumstances, one of the ways to improve job opportunities for the Islanders is to allow preferential treatment to them in matters of employment to Group 'C' and Group 'B' posts in the Andaman and Nicobar Administration. Actually, such a preferential treatment was available to them earlier until the situation was reversed by a Supreme Court judgment in 1992 which maintained that requirement of being a local candidate for appointment to the Government posts in Andaman and Nicobar Administration is violative of the constitutional provisions and only a law made by the Parliament can provide for such a restriction or requirement."

He also suggests that preference should be given in Group 'C' posts and Group 'B' posts in Andaman and Nicobar Administration to the youth of these Islands.

Referring to the existing arrangement in the UT of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, he further suggests, "It would not be out of context to mention that such a preferential treatment to the local candidates has been allowed in the case of Administration of Union Territory of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and since the circumstances here are more difficult, a special dispensation in the case of Andaman and Nicobar Administration is absolutely essential.

The Administration has also attached a copy of letter No. U-14014/38/2012-CPD dated October 14, 2013 from the Deputy Secretary (ANL), Ministry of Home Affairs to the Administrator, UT Administration of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli in this regard.