Visits of ministers, bureaucrats or people’s representatives arriving at Nicobar had a befitting tailored itinerary.
Arrival by Indian Air Force aircraft at Car Nicobar around 10.00 AM, visit Moose village, call on Archbishop, meeting Tribal chiefs, have a complimentary sumptuous lunch at state guest house and depart at 3 PM. For some ill timed and off beat VIP’s, not being indecorous we presented them with ‘imitation tribal chiefs’, displaying some smart talkative locals working in our offices. All these celebrities wanted was to have some lovely presentable photographs for exhibiting back home and having a informal chat with “chiefs”, with a true sense of an victorious triumph. In case our stock presenters were inconveniently questioned, they started growling in local gibberish, this further endorsed their certified authenticity.
When ethics did not come in the way of using placebos for providing relief to terminally ill persons we did not find any harm in placating a few spirited VIP’s by enacting this harmless personae swapping. This appeasing enactment killed three birds with one stone, plus it helped in boosting adrenaline level between those consenting parties.
Once a huge contingent, almost a platoon strength of members of parliament, both from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha disembarked on these faraway desolate islands. It was commanded by a veteran politician Bansi Lal, once a powerful Chief Minister of Haryana, later served as Defence Minister of India. Presently playing crucial constitutional role as chairman of the potent Estimates Committee of Parliament.
As usual this high powered delegation arrived at Indian AF airbase, at the tarmac itself they received a grand impressive traditional welcome.
Each one was garlanded and introduced to the Tribal chiefs and top government officials. They were driven in a impressive convoy to state guest house, where they relaxed and had a relishing lunch.
Later in the early evening they were to board M V Sentinel for departure to great Nicobar Island. At airport itself one MP inquisitively questioned, Japan must be a neighboring country, which most you all must be visiting regularly for circumventing your boredom. This query left me speechlessly stunned, at his shallow regional geographical knowledge of these strategic islands.
No less than ascending Mount Everest :
M V Sentinel lay at anchor in the open sea off the Moose coast. The entire team had to be taken abroad, this task required a extremely dexterous handling. From the jetty they were taken in small motor boats alighted on a shaky pontoon floating alongside the ship. From this base they had to climbed up the stark precariously hanging ladder along port-side.
For the motley crowd of MP’s this onerous task was no less than ascending the steep heights of Mount Everest. They were heard loudly invoking Lord Hanuman by reciting protective “chalisa”, to save them from prevailing horrendous situation. This highly strenuous boarding exercise sapped most of their energy, it appeared that the impending sea journey was going to be a tough sequel.
They were comfortably lodged in the deluxe air conditioned cabins, most of our esteemed guests complained of headaches and nauseating feelings. The foxed doctor prescribed them some useful medicines for soothing their agitated somatic nerves. Enterprising among them consumed few brawny drinks which acted as instant booster in uplifting their sagging spirits. Many of them questioned, in case of ship’s mechanical failure their ship could smash against some rock or an island, what contingency had been formulated to save their valuable lives.
However they appeared to be unsatisfied at my detailed explanation.
Felt lonely, homesick & incompatible :
The weather in Andaman Sea took a turbulent turn on sudden rising up of medium intensity south easterly gale.Our guests dare not venture out of their comfy cabins, while ensuring their safety lay prone on their beds, even skipping meals.
Next morning at 8.00 AM the ship berthed at Campbell Bay jetty, on stepping at the island, were accorded a befitting grand rousing reception.
They were comfortably lodged in the newly built guest house. At Great Nicobar Island they visited aboriginal Shompen camp. Later toured the erstwhile ten thousand acre forested area developed into lush green plantations and farmlands by the hardy ex-servicemen settlers.Delegates were stunned by the vision of endless bountiful natural beauty engulfing the entire picturesque area around Pygmalion point, (now Indira point) situated at the land’s end.
Back in guest house they felt lonely, homesick and incompatible with the alien surroundings and environment. Most of them observed that this last frontier of Indian nation was the most isolated godforsaken place, they had ever visited during their entire lifetime.
Promises by politicians :
Being active politicians they made wild uncanny assurances to the local population. The members of treasury benches appeared even more vocal in assuring the beleaguered inhabitants to find immediate improvement in connectivity and communication and luxury of tapped portable water and round the clock electricity.
Although past experience prompted that except offering of dreams, renewing these with more sunnier spell of fresh promises, but failing to deliver anything substantial at the ground level.Out of sight is out of mind appeared to be an appropriate maxim suitable for the occasion, easily going back on the slippery promises, being their time tested forte. These people’s representatives failed to induce any monumental developmental plans for making these islands attractively habitable with bare basic civic amenities in the near future. Such is the vulnerability of helpless common citizens, who await hearing hollow speeches, thereafter nothing more for another five years?
(Author of the article is former Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police. As described by the author , above mentioned tour was organised in 1983 , during his posting in Andaman Nicobar islands)