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Strategic & Sustainable: Island Development Under PM Modi
April 03, 2024

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government stands out not only for espousing the agenda of inclusive development as a clarion call but also demonstrating it through concrete actions. Strategic in content and sustainable in form, this development not only reaches the lowest rungs of the society today but also leaves no areas, however distant, untouched.

With the development of islands assuming speed and scale under PM Modi, the sentiment of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, aur Sabka Prayas rings true in its entirety.

The approach is evident in government initiatives, including the establishment of the Island Development Agency, Holistic Island Development Programme, Andaman & Nicobar Connectivity Programme, Great Nicobar Holistic Development Project, and infra projects in Lakshadweep, among others.

These projects aim to develop our islands in myriad ways—from strengthening fundamental infrastructure and improving air, port, and digital connectivity to optimising tourism potential and activating newer investment avenues. Besides, the Modi government has mainly concerned itself with the saturation of schemes in these areas, taking welfare to the last mile in both letter and spirit.

With a view to undertake comprehensive development of islands, PM Modi's government set up the Island Development Agency (IDA) in 2017. The Agency oversees the Holistic Development of Islands Programme. This programme is backed by detailed and principled planning—a first-of-its-kind developmental exercise enriched with community and private sector participation. It stands for sustainable development that is inviolative of the natural character of the ecosystem and prescribes scientific parameters such as ‘carrying capacity’ in designing projects. Apart from building fundamental infrastructure in island areas, the programme aims to promote job creation through exemplary tourism projects along with meeting security concerns associated with their strategic location.

In line with this vision, PM Modi’s government has allocated Rs. 48,000 crore to Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the last nine years—twice the money spent in the nine years of the previous government. Today the islands have achieved 100% saturation under Swachh Bharat Mission and Jal Jeevan Mission. As mentioned by the PM himself, it was his government that established the first-ever medical college in Port Blair. Almost everyone residing here has a bank account and can avail of the One Nation, One Ration facility. Unlike earlier when internet was satellite-dependent, Andaman & Nicobar Islands today are connected to the mainland via the Submarine Optical Fibre Cable. Bringing cheaper and enhanced connectivity to these areas, the 23,00 kilometres submarine cable will be crucial in improving access to telemedicine, online education, banking services, and boosting tourism, among other things. The Andaman Trunk Road, developed under Andaman & Nicobar Island Dweep Connectivity Programme, connects the capital city of Port Blair with all major towns, playing a crucial role in the socio-economic development of the islands.

The new integrated terminal building of the Veer Savarkar International Airport at Port Blair adds another feather to PM Modi's cap when it comes to boosting connectivity in the region. With sustainability features like a double insulated roofing system, LED lighting, and a 500 KW solar power plant, the terminal has been built at a cost of Rs. 710 crore with a capacity to handle a footfall of 50 lakh passengers yearly.

These massive leaps in infrastructural development have redefined the essence of ease of living, travel and doing business here, apart from giving a renewed push to tourism. Today, as adventure tourism serves as a prime attraction, tourist footfall to Andaman and Nicobar Islands has doubled compared to the numbers in 2014.

Apart from infrastructure, Andaman & Nicobar Islands also stand as shining examples of PM Modi's mantra—Vikas Bhi, Virasat Bhi. The Modi government has been instrumental in removing the signs of colonial legacy from these island groups. In 2018, PM Modi hoisted the tricolour in Andaman—at the very same place where Netaji Subhas Bose had hoisted the flag. Giving due recognition to the legacy of Netaji, PM Modi's government renamed Ross Island as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep, and Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep. In 2023, the government decided to name 21 islands after the Paramveer Chakra awardees, honouring their patriotic zeal and inspiring the youth to work towards the development of the country.

The Great Nicobar, on the other hand, is an integrated urban development project with built-in economic and strategic advantages. It is an amalgamation of four ‘interlinked’ projects that together constitute the new Greenfield city at Great Nicobar. The four projects are the port, airport, power plant, and township.

Giving a boost to Maritime India Vision 2030, the International Container Trans-Shipment Port project at Galathea Bay, Great Nicobar assumes particular importance. With an investment of about Rs. 44,000 crore, this mega container terminal has the potential to become a leading transhipment port given its strategic proximity to international trade routes, availability of natural water depth of over 20, and carrying capacity of all transhipment cargo from all nearby ports. It provides an opportunity to India to participate fully in the global shipping trade, creating employment opportunities for its citizens and improving quality of life for current and future residents of Great Nicobar Island.

When it comes to Lakshadweep, PM Modi recently inaugurated developmental projects worth Rs. 1,150 crore, ranging from healthcare, water resources, energy, education, and technology.

The PM also fulfilled his guarantee given back in 2020 about ensuring fast internet within 1,000 days in the form of the Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fibre Connection. The submarine cable introduces 11 Lakshadweep islands to 100 times faster internet connectivity, leading to better access to e-services like education, banking, telemedicine and government services.

With a G20 meeting, rising cruise tourism and Blue Flag certifications to their credit, Lakshadweep islands are already making waves on the global tourism map. The number of tourists visiting Lakshadweep has risen five-fold when compared to five years ago. And the Modi government is committed to further elevate the tourism potential of these stunning coral islands via its visionary developmental programs.

In the Interim Budget 2024, the government has committed to developing port connectivity and tourism infrastructure in the islands, including Lakshadweep. This initiative aligns with the government's aggressive push to promote spiritual tourism, through schemes such as PRASHAD, aimed at revitalising pilgrimage places, and Dekho Apna Desh."

Apart from promoting India's rich geographical and cultural diversity, the government has shown its keenness in promoting the culture of beach games, as evidenced by the hosting of Beach Games 2024 in Diu. The Prime Minister has taken a personal interest in highlighting the breathtaking beauty of our islands. He has encouraged people to visit and urged them to choose islands in India for their destination weddings—an idea he calls 'Wed in India'.

Apart from their tourism potential, these islands play a crucial role in furthering India's strategic and economic cooperation with the world, especially in leveraging India's Act East Policy. Hence, the swiftness and scale displayed by PM Modi's government in connecting these islands to India's mainland and the world is peerless and strengthens our collective resolve of a Viksit Bharat by 2047.