“Lakshadweep, the group of 36 islands is known for its exotic and sun-kissed beaches and lush green landscape. The name Lakshadweep in Malayalam and Sanskrit means ‘a hundred thousand islands’. ” India’s smallest Union Territory Lakshadweep is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands with an area of 32 sq km. It is a uni-district Union Territory and comprises of 12 atolls, three reefs, five submerged banks and ten inhabited islands. The islands have a total area of 32 sq km. The capital is Kavaratti and it is also the principal town of the UT. All Islands are 220 to 440 km away from the coastal city of Kochi in Kerala, in the emerald Arabian Sea. The natural landscapes, the sandy beaches, abundance of flora and fauna and the absence of a rushed lifestyle enhance the mystique of Lakshadweep.
As per details from Census 2011, Lakshadweep has population of 64,000, an increase from figure of 60,000in 2001 census. Total population of Lakshadweep as per 2011 census is 64,473 of which male and female are 33,123 and 31,350 respectively. In 2001, total population was 60,650 in which males were 31,131 while females were 29,519. The total population growth in this decade was 6.30 percent while in previous decade it was 17.19 percent. The population of Lakshadweep forms 0.01 percent of India in 2011. In 2001, the figure was 0.01 percent.
Kolkali and Parichakali are the two popular folk art forms in the Territory. They are an integral part of the cultural milieu except in Minicoy where “LAVA” is the most popular dance form. Some of the folk dances have a resemblance with those in North Eastern India. For marriages “OPPANA” is a common feature, a song sung by a lead singer and followed by a group of women. Picnics are a common leisure activity in Minicoy. The most widely celebrated festivals are Independence Day and Republic Day, Milad – Ul – Nabi, Idulfitr, Bakrid, and Muharram in that order. Interestingly Independence Day and Republic Day are celebrated for days with religious fervor.
Only BSNL and Airtel provides telecommunication services to Lakshadweep Islands. BSNL provides connectivity in all 10 inhabited islands where as Airtel provides connectivity to Kavaratti and Agatti islands.
The entry to Lakshadweep islands is restricted. One requires an entry permit issued by Lakshadweep Administration to visit these islands.
Not much is known about the early history of these islands. The islands that were supposed to have been inhabited first are Amini, Andrott, Kavaratti, and Agatti. It was earlier believed that the islanders were originally Hindus, and later converted to Islam under the influence of Arab traders, sometime in the 14th century. But Archaeological evidences unearthed indicate that there were Buddhist settlements around the 6th or 7th century. Earliest Muslim converts or settlers pre-date the year 139 AH of the Hijra year (eighth century), of which period grave stones have recently been discovered in Agatti. This would tend to bear out the traditional belief that Islam was brought to the Island by Arab Saint, Ubaidulla in 41 AH.
Probably independent till 16th century, the Islands were driven to seek the assistance of Raja of Chirakal to help them avert establishment of Portuguese domination. This enabled him to establish his authority, and later, the islands were transferred in jaggier to Ali Raja, head of Moplah community in Cannanore, who later became an independent ruler himself. The Arakkal rule was not popular and in 1787, Tipu Sultan acceded to the petitions of the Northern islands to annex these islands. After the fall of Tipu Sultan, the Islands were passed to East India Company, but continued to be ruled de facto by the rulers of Cannanore, till their ultimate annexation by the British in the early 20th century. In 1956, the islands were constituted into a single territory, and since then, have been directly administered by the Union Government through an Administrator. The Laccadives, Minicoy and Amindivi group of islands were renamed as Lakshadweep in 1973. Lakshadweep, a group of coral islands consist of 12 atolls, three reefs and submerged sand banks. Of the 27 islands, only 11 are inhabited. These lie scattered in the Arabian Sea about 280 km to 480 km off Kerala coast between 8° and 12° 3' North Latitude and 71° and 74° East Longitude.
Coconut is the only major crop with a production of 553 lakh nuts per year. The area under cultivation is about 2,689 hectares. Lakshadweep coconut is branded as an organic product. In India, Lakshadweep stands first in coconut production and productivity per hector is 20,500 and average yield per palm per year is 82 coconuts. The Lakshadweep coconuts are the highest oil content nuts in the world (82 per cent).
Fishing is another major activity. The sea around the island is highly productive. The islands stand first in the country in per capita availability of fish. During 2010, 12,284 tonnes of fish have been landed in this U.T. Coconut fibre extraction and conversion into fibre products is the main industry in the islands. Under Government Sector, there are seven coir fibre factories, five coir production cum demonstration centres and seven fibre curling units, functioning under coir sector. These units produced coir fibre and coir yarn in addition to other coir products like curled fibre, corridor mat, mat and mattings. A few coir twisting units also function in private sector.
At present M.V. Kavaratti, M.V. Tipu Sultan, M.V. Bharat Seema, M.V. Minicoy, M.V. Amindivi and M.V. Dweep Setu are operating in the mainland-island sector. Two inter-Island ferry vessels M.V. Khadeeja Beevi, M.V. Hameedath Bee provide connectivity between the islands except Minicoy Island with Kavratti as base port. The Cargo traffic in this sector is handled with four cargo barges namely M.V. Ubaidulla, M.V. Thinnakara, M.V. Laccadives and M.V. Cheriyam. Further one oil barge M.V. Sukheli (60 MT) is being utilized for providing bunker to Island ferries an ambulance helicopter service between the Islands and to maintain and airline connects Agatti Island and Kochi daily except Sundays.
The 15 years Perspective Plan for shipping requirements in UTL are approved by Ministry of Shipping in December 2000. Among the 18 new ships recommended by the above plan, three 150 passenger high speed crafts and two 10 Ton Bullard Tugs have already been procured and inducted into service. One 15 passenger and three 50 passenger high speed vessels were also sanctioned by Government of India under PMGSY which has already been procured and inducted into service. Two 250 passenger cum 100 MT cargo ships are being constructed at Colombo Dockyard, Sri Lanka. The first ship was "Arabian Sea" delivered in January 2010 and pressed into service. The second ship "Lakshadweep Sea" was inducted into service in 2010. Six 200 passenger landing Barges are also being constructed at Vipul Shipyard, Goa, Apart from the above vessels, two landing Barges, one Oil Barge and one LPG Ships are also recommended by the committee for which tenders are being finalized by SCI. Proposal has also been submitted to Ministry of Shipping for approval of EFC for acquisition of one 400 passengers ship.
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