'Foreign NGOs pressuring govt to close crucial Andaman road'

'Foreign NGOs pressuring govt to close crucial Andaman road'

Facing criticism following uploading of videos showing semi-naked Jarawa tribe, the Andaman and Nicobar authorities today alleged some foreign NGOs were pressurising the Government to close the Andaman Trunk Road and made it clear that action will be taken against officials found colluding with them.

An official spokesperson of the Island police said steps have already been taken irrespective of the vintage of the video footage of Jarawa tribes taken by some "unscrupulous and mischievous elements" which is highly deplorable and a condemnable act.

Two persons have been arrested and investigation was in progress after the uploading of first video, the spokesperson said.

"Irrespective of the rank and service of the government officials involved or found colluding, the administration is committed to identify and take stringent action against them," the spokesperson said.

In Delhi, a minister said that government is exploring the possibility of having alternate connectivity with the Great Nicobar island through sea and aerial route, if the Andaman Truck Route (ATR) - which connects the island to Port Blair- is closed down.

"The problem inside is the ATR which joins Port Blair with the Greater Nicobar, it passes through that area. If ATR is closed, then the alternate routes will be the sea and aerial route," Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo told PTI.

However, the Andaman spokesperson said there was a "concerted effort" by vested interests to pressurise the Government for the closure of the Andaman Trunk Road without fully appreciating the inherent issues.

"It is likely that some foreign NGOs may be in possession of some more old video footage, as these have been in circulation on the Internet, to selectively release them to sensationalising the issue with the ulterior aim of putting pressure for closure of the Andaman Trunk Road, the lifeline of more than one lakh people inhabiting North and Middle Andamans," the spokesperson said.

About the tribal people of the island, the spokesperson said the administration has been engaged in protecting the tribal interest and in line with this policy it established in 2007 an additional buffer zone of five kilometers width around the notified Jarawa reserve.

"It closed down all such tourism activities (including government-run establishments) which could have impacted on the Jarawa interests," the spokesperson said.
The 330 kilometer-long Andaman Trunk Road serves a vital communication link of North and Middle Andamans and of its settlements and out of this 56 kms of this road passes through the Jarawa Reserve.

The administration has progressively restricted the number of convoys passing through this reserve and have ensured that these convoys are properly escorted by the police to minimise contact with the Jarawas, who otherwise move freely within their reserve areas and even beyond.

For the first time, the Jarawa population has gone up by 40 per cent in the last ten years from 240 in 2000 to 383 in 2011 out of which 141 were below 10 years, and 99 in the age group of 11 to 20 years.

Besides Jarawas, there are five more vulnerable tribes in the islands out of which the largest tribe of Nicobarese, numbering around 30,000, have already joined the mainstream and are doing extremely well in all walks of life.

The police has also warned tour operators to desist from promoting Jarawa tourism on their websites.