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
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.