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In Focus

Barring ‘Outsiders’ Doing Business

“We will not let outsiders do business on Elephanta Island,” warns erstwhile Sarpanch Rajendra Padte who, on his part, rubbishes his present-day counterpart Baliram Thakur’s attempts to modernise the island and boost tourism. “We have been working on the island for years on end and have ensured that the island’s resources stay with the island’s natives.

'I am not against development for the people of Elephanta' - Erstwhile Sarpanch Rajendra Padte

Now, with all this talk of tie-ups with foreign companies and outsiders, Elephanta Island will not remain the same. The pristine island, housed by locals, will be taken over by outsiders. And, in no time, we’ll be left with no option but to have to look for a green patch or a tree as is the case in most islands that have been ‘developed’ for tourism,” he says.

“I will never let that happen. Not in my lifetime,” says Padte who initiated most of the developmental projects of Elephanta Island before relinquishing political power to Thakur. “I am not against development for the people of Elephanta. By all means, make roads, provide facilities for Elephanta’s villagers, but don’t think you can sell off this island that belongs to us - the people of Elephanta,” he says.

While there is a need to balance tourism with local interests, the trend today, particularly among politicians and local representatives, is instead to earn brownie points with their respective political parties while completely disregarding local interests.

In a meeting held with officers of the Intelligence Bureau, the Navi Mumbai police, the Coast Guard, the Forest Department and the Maharashtra Maritime Board, in November 2018, it was decided that the gram panchayat would maintain a register of tourists visiting the island; finalise a dress code for tourist guides provided with identity cards; CCTVs installed and a survey of the village undertaken.
So, everything is put in place or at least looks like it’s put in place. Never mind that if there’s a snake-bite, there’s absolutely no place to avail immediate medical attention.

This report has been prepared for DraftCraft International’s Flagship Initiative, The Elephanta Island Project to research, analyse and determine the rights and liabilities of Islanders, local and foreign tourists vis-a-vis the responsibility of the State towards all stakeholders and natural resources while upholding the law of the land and ensuring the protection of environment that tops the list of priorities. The initiative examines laws and policies regarding islands, sea transport, privacy, women’s rights, health, protection of the environment and rights and liabilities of tourists guaranteed to all by the State in context of the Right To Equality, Freedoms, The Right to Life and Global Conventions to which India is a signatory.