Andaman And Nicobar Islands
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A REFERENCE ANNUAL
RESEARCH, REFERENCE AND TRAINING DIVISION
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
Andaman And Nicobar Islands
Area : 8,249 sq km
Population : 3,56,152 (2001 census)
Capital : Port Blair
Principal Languages : Hindi, Nicobarese, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
The Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is situated between 6° and 14° North Latitude and 92° and 94° East Longitude. The islands located north of 10° north latitude are known as Andaman Group of Islands while islands located south of 10° north latitude are called Nicobar Group of Islands. The climate of the islands can be defined as humid, tropical coastal climate. The Islands receive rainfall from both the south-west and north-east monsoons and maximum precipitation is between May and December.
The original inhabitants of the Islands lived in the forests on hunting and fishing. There are four Negrito tribes, viz., the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinalese in the Andaman group of Islands and two Mongoloid tribes, viz., Nicobarese and Shompens in the Nicobar group of islands.
A total area of 8068.71 hectare. under agriculture and plantation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was damaged by Tsunami / Earthquake. Out of that paddy and other field crops is 2177.70 ha. and 5891.01 ha. under plantation crops. Area under permanent submergence is 4206.64 hect. with paddy and other field crops. Paddy, the main food crop, is mostly cultivated in Andaman group of Islands, whereas Coconut and Arecanut are the cash crops of Nicobar group of Islands.
Field crops, namely, pulses, oilseeds and vegetable are grown followed by paddy during Rabi season. Different kinds of fruits such as mango, sapota, orange, banana, papaya, pineapple and root crops are grown on hilly land owned by the farmers. Spices, viz. pepper, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon are grown under multitier cropping system. Rubber, red oil, palm and cashew are grown on a limited scale in these Islands.
Recorded forest is 7,171 sq km of the total geographical area of the islands. Many types of forests are found in the islands, such as tropical wet evergreen, tropical semi-evergreen, moist deciduous, littoral, mangrove and swamp forests. A large variety of timbers are found in the Andaman group of Islands. The most valuable timbers are padauk and gurjan. These species are not found in Nicobar.
There are 96 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 9 National Parks and 1 Biosphere Reserve in these Islands. Mammals - out of 55 terrestrial and 7 marine mammal species reported so far, 32 species are endemic. Birds - as many as 246 species and sub -species of birds are reported to inhabit these Islands and of these 99 species and sub-species are endemic. Reptiles - there are 76 terrestrial reptiles found here, of these, 24 species are endemic. Marine Life - Islands harbour more than 1,200 species of fish, 350 species of echinoderms, 1,000 species of molusscs and many more lower forms of life. Among vertebrates dugongs, dolphins, whales, salt water crocodiles, sea turtles, sea snakes, etc., are common. Coral and Coral reefs - so far 179 species of corals belonging to 61 genera have been reported. Reefs are mostly fringing type on eastern coast and barrier type on the western coast.
There are 1833 registered MSMEs and Handicrafts Units. Two units are 100 per cent export oriented units in the line of Fish/Prawn processing activity. Apart from this, there are shells and wood based handicraft units. SSI units are engaged in the production of paints and varnishes, mini flour mills, soft drinks and beverages, steel furniture and fixtures, readymade garments, steel gate grills and structures. MSMEs handicraft units are also engaged in shell crafts, bakery products, ricemilling, furniture-making, etc. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation in the Public sector has spread its wings in the field of Tourism, Fisheries, Industries and Industrial financing and functions as authorized agents for Alliance Air/Jet Airways/Air Deccan.
The Motor Transport Department of A & N Administration operates from 13 stations in Northern and Southern group of Islands. The department has a total number of 205 buses in operation mainly in rural area of A & N Islands. Computerized ticketing for ATR express service has been implemented w.e.f. 15 August 2007 where advance tickets can be obtained.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been recognised as an eco-friendly tourist’s destination. As a tourist paradise, these Islands have something very special to offer like historic Cellular Jail, Ross Island and Havelock Island.
The Andaman tropical evergreen rain forests, beautiful silver sandy beaches, serpentine mangrove-lined creeks, marine life abounding in rare species of plants, animals, corals, etc., provide a memorable experience to the tourists. There is tremendous scope for enjoying nature in the beach resorts, water sports and adventure water sports, adventure tourism like trekking, Island camping, Nature trail, Scuba Diving, etc.
Tourism Department runs guest houses in various parts of the Islands for comfortable accommodation to tourists visiting these Islands. The important places of tourist interest are Anthropological Museum, Marine Museum, Water Sports Complex, Gandhi Park, North Bay, Viper Island, Ross Island, Chidiyatapu, (Bird watching), Red Skin Island, Corbyn’s cove Beach, Islands like Neil Island, Havelock Island, Cinque, Little Andaman, Diglipur (Ross and Smith), etc.
As regards the connectivity, the islands are well connected to the mainland by air and sea. Indian Airlines, Air Deccan, Jetlite operates to Port Blair from Kolkata and Chennai. There are regular passenger ship services from Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam.
Lt. Governor : Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bhopinder Singh, PVSM, AVSM
Chief Secretary : Shri Shakti Sinha
Jurisdiction of High Court : Falls under the
Jurisdiction of Kolkata High Court
AREA, POPULATION AND HEADQUARTERS OF DISTRICTS
S.No. District Area (sq km) Population Headquarters (Census 2001)
1. South Andaman 3181.401 2,08,471 Port Blair
2. Nicobar 1,841 42,068 Car Nicobar
3. North and Middle Andaman 3226.599 1,05,613 Mayabunder
2019: air station in Andaman & Nicobar upgraded
Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba commissioned INS Kohassa, an upgraded version of the existing naval air station (NAS) at Shibpur in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with an extended runway to allow basing a few Dornier aircraft, helicopters and drones there.“ NAS Shibpur was established in 2001 as a forward operating airbase for enhanced surveillance in North Andaman. The close proximity of Coco Islands (Myanmar) and the wide expanse of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes the base a very vital asset,” an official said.
“Short-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters operating from there can undertake EEZ surveillance, anti-poaching missions and search and rescue missions. NAS Shibpur was identified by Niti Aayog as one of the ‘early bird’ projects as part of the holistic island development plan. The Navy is ready to facilitate civil flight operations from NAS Shibpur. The runway extension to 10,000 feet is planned to facilitate operations of wide-bodied aircraft,” he added.
“Oh, my dear Motherland, why are you crying?
The rule of foreigners is about to end!
They are packing up!
The national shame and misfortune will not last long!
The wind of freedom has begun to blow,
Old and young are yearning for freedom!
When India becomes free,
‘Hari’ will also enjoy his freedom!”
Who is that ‘Hari’ who wanted to enjoy his freedom? Shri Babu Ram Hari was from Qadian, Gurdaspur District of Punjab, and Editor of ‘Swarajya’, who was awarded sentence of transportation to Cellular Jail in Andamans for 21 years for penning three editorials considered ‘seditious’ by the British colonizers.
Lives were thus mercilessly plucked by the British rulers as offerings for upholding the cause of India’s independence. The dreaded Cellular jail was one such sacrificial altar. Equipped specially for solitary confinement in individual cells (hence aptly named Cellular Jail), this jail is indelibly linked with India’s fight for freedom.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose rightly described it as the ‘Indian Bastille”. In a statement issued on 8th November 1943, after the Andamans were won by the Japanese during World War II, Netaji remarked, “Like the fort of Bastille in Paris which was liberated first during the French Revolution setting free political prisoners, the Adnamans, where Indian prisoners suffered, is the first to be liberated in India’s fight for independence”. (Later, however, the Islands were recaptured by the Allies.)
For prisoners convicted of high crimes in colonial India and Burma, the British established penal settlements at Benkoelen (the first ever in 1787), Malacca, Singapore, Arakan and Tenasserim. The Andamans was the last in the series and also the first to be established on Indian soil. However, much earlier in 1789 itself such a penal settlement was started in Port Cornwallis, North Andaman, but was abandoned after seven years.
The idea was revived in the wake of the First War of Indian Independence (1857) which the British chose to call the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’. To deport and imprison the so-called mutineers, deserters and rebels, the far-off Andamans was chosen. On 10th March 1858, the first batch of 200 ‘grievous political offenders’ touched the shores of Chatham Island within Port Blair harbour in South Andaman. The second batch was of 216 from Punjab province. As on 16th June 1858, the settlement position was – Total received-773, Died in Hospital-64, Escaped and not recaptured-140, Suicide-1, Hanged after recapture-87, Left-481. By 28th September 1858 about 1,330 prisoners had landed. Between 1858 and 1860, about 2,000-4,000 freedom fighters had been deported to Andamans from different parts of India. Sadly, many of them perished under the most agonizing living and working conditions. Neither of those who escaped into the jungle could escape death. Later, criminal convicts were also sent there for penal servitude. A century later, on 15th August 1957, a Martyrs’ Column was dedicated in Port Blair to commemorate those heroes who died unsung and unknown.
Fearing that political prisoners would spread revolutionary ideas among other prisoners and also mingle within their group, the British rulers decided on solitary cells in a far off place. Thus was completed the notorious Cellular Jail in 1906 whose solitary cells finally rose to a total of 693! As the freedom movement picked up, 80 revolutionaries from Poona were deported in 1889. As the freedom struggle saw a resurge, 132 were deported (1909- 1921), followed by 379 (1932-38). Political prisoners involved in various conspiracy cases were deported to Cellular Jail. Some of such cases include Alipur Bomb Case (also known as Maniktola Conspiracy Case), Nasik Conspiracy Case, Lahore Conspiracy Case (Ghaddar party revolutionaries), Banaras Conspiracy Case, Chittagong Armoury Case, Dacca Conspiracy Case, Inter-Provincial Conspiracy Case, Gaya Conspiracy Case and Burma Conspiracy Case, etc. Besides these, Wahabi rebels, Mopllah agitators of Malabar Coast, Rampa revolutionaries of Andhra, Manipur freedom fighters, Tharwardy peasants of Burma were also located to the Andamans.
Life in the jail
Life in the Cellular Jail was most inhuman and barbaric, especially for the early prisoners. With little food and clothing, the political prisoners were compelled to do gruelling manual work. Unused to such hard manual labour, they failed in their daily work quota resulting in further severe punishments. The intention was to humiliate them and shatter their will power. They were set upon to manually press oil, dehusk coconuts, pound coir, make rope, cut hills, fill up swamps, clear forests, lay roads, etc. The most feared was ‘picking oakum’, the ‘art of rope making’ out of Ramban grass with high acidity content that caused continuous itching, scratching and bleeding!
When Congress ministries were formed in seven provinces of India in July 1937, the demand of Cellular Jail political prisoners for repatriation to mainland gained momentum. As their repeated appeals and agitations did not yield result, 183 of them went on a 37-day hunger strike from 24 July 1937. This created a wave of support and their counterparts in the mainland jails also went on hunger strike. Demonstrations were held all over India. The British bowed down and the first batch of freedom fighters left Andamans on 22 Sept. 1937. The last batch had also left by 18 January 1938. Criminal convicts, however, were deported till the penal settlement was abolished in 1946.
Many charismatic personalities were imprisoned in this Jail. Savarkar brothers, Motilal Verma, Babu Ram Hari, Pandit Permanand, Ladha Ram, Ullaskar Dutt, Barin Kumar Ghosh, Bhai Parmanand, Indu Bhushan Roy, Prithvi Singh Azad, Pulin Das, Trailokyanath Chakravarthy, Gurumukh Singh, among others. The list is long and distinguished. To remember and venerate the invaluable sacrifice of our freedom fighters interned in Cellular Jail, this was dedicated as a National Memorial on 11 February 1979 by the then Prime Minister, Shri Morarji Desai. The museum and the Sound & Light show there depict the hard life which, in essence, is their sacrifice so that we could live in independence and peace. Cellular Jail is in UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Site as there are no sites comparable to it at national level.
Once a dreaded place, Cellular Jail is now a national monument, an embodiment of sacrifice, a place to remind that freedom does not come that easily.
(The author is a Chennai based independent journalist.)
Names of islands
2018-19: 3 islands to get desi names in tribute to Bose
The Centre has decided to rename three islands in Andaman & Nicobar — Ross Island as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Island, Neil Island as Shahid Dweep and Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep — coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Bose having hoisted the national flag in Port Blair.
Sources said the home ministry has almost completed formalities for the change in nomenclature and the new names will be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Port Blair on December 30. Modi, who will be accompanied by home minister Rajnath Singh, will hoist a 150-metre flag in Port Blair apart from releasing a commemorative stamp and coin on the occasion.
After the Japanese captured the islands during WWII, Bose, who led the Indian National Army that had allied with Japan, hoisted the national flag in Port Blair on December 30, 1943. He declared the islands as the first Indian territory freed from British rule. He then suggested Andaman be renamed as Shahid Dweep and Nicobar as Swaraj Dweep, something the Modi government is now taking forward by renaming Neil Island and Havelock Island .
Dec 31 2014
Shamsher Bahadur Singh Deol
With most settlements located around jetties, the waves left the islands devastated. The coconut was the only source of food and water to those stranded. It was the self-belief of the indigenous people that enabled their survival and recovery
Before the tsunami of 2004, Nicobar islands had a population of 50,000, with almost all Nicobari tribals bearing allegiance to the Church of North India. For this sparsely populated area, the 3,500 lives lost in the tsunami amounted to 7% of the population. In 2004, I was posted as inspector general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The epicentre was only 150km from Indira Point and the intensity of the earthquake was 9.1 on the Richter Scale; compare that to the Latur quake, which registered at a mere 6.4. The Richter Scale is not linear but exponential, the intensity multiplying 33 times for readings between 8 and 9, and quakes cause disturbances in the ocean that can reach a speed of up to 450km an hour. On the surface of the water, there is barely a ripple, 20 cm to 70 cm high, imperceptible to boats and fishermen at sea, but its awesome power erupts on barriers it encounters.
An unhealthy dose of what is termed as the `Island Psyche' inflicts the inhabitants of the Andamans.This is a combination of isolation, hopelessness, uncertainty and boredom. Throw in depression, mental illness and alcoholism and the psyche becomes a debilitation.
This psyche is what contributed to the concentration of people and buildings around the jetty of each island. At least periodically, this enabled the inhabitants to feel connected to the outside world, if only to Port Blair, to see who was coming or leaving on the erratic steamer service, to see if vegetables, cooking gas or milk powder was now available. Constructed around the jetty were the generator plants, water supply systems, schools, dispensaries, revenue offices, police stations, markets, banks. It was as `downtown' as it could get. In less than 20 seconds, the third wave of the tsunami wiped out all of it, along with thousands of people.
Along with the disappearance of police weaponry, wireless equipment, revenue records and vehicles, survivors were left without medicines, educational certificates, driving licences, land titles, kitchen utensils, spectacles, and other necessities too numerous to list. It was as if life had to begin anew.
The tsunami stripped the islands off these laboriously-built jetties, boats, communication links, intraisland roads and public services.Four thousand hectares of land was permanently submerged and some islands tilted from one side to the other. One of the islands, Trinkat, is today split into three separate islands.
Only around 300 rotting and bloated bodies were located in the 10 days after the event. We were required to photograph each of them but this formality had to be abandoned as no facial features were discernible. Only one accurate identification was achieved -that of a policeman in uniform, complete with name tag. To prevent epidemics, the police had to carry out cremations on the spot. A battered vehicle was located, the petrol siphoned off and sprinkled on the body, which was then covered with plastic chairs, pieces of cloth and dry wood before a fire was ignited.
In the three non-tribal islands, Campbell Bay, Kachal and Hut Bay, we were vociferously accosted with impossible demands, hostile sloganshouting and breast-beating. Even at Port Blair on December 26, I had to unsheath my revolver to control strident, almost violent tourists from the mainland who had surrounded the car of the Lieutenant Governor. To blame God or nature for the tsunami gives us nothing to rail at; we want a personification of our oppressor to vent our hate upon.
In sharp contrast, the Nicobarese were, without exception, dignified and disciplined. When we first visited their village, the survivors would be sitting neatly in rows on the ground. Women would cry with muted sobs, but no man would break down. The captain of the village was the only person to speak on their behalf, handing over a list of the two or three dead and the more than 200 missing. Nicobarese bestow names on their children with complete freedom. The list of the unfortunates included Alexander the Great, Sehwag, Cassius Clay, Ravi Shastri, Cleopatra, Vivian Richards, Josephine, Maradona, Sachin Tendulkar, Pele and Napoleon Bonaparte. So many dreams shattered.
Not used to dealing with money, they were bewildered by the vast amounts of compensation given to them. Upscale cars and motorcycles were purchased without consideration of maintenance and fuel costs. Money was loaned to friends, donated to clan members and invested with deceitful merchants. In the tribal areas where alcohol is forbidden by law, a bottle of rum was being sold for Rs2,000. Like the tsunami waves, the money came and went.
The media showed a dogged interest in only one aspect -the casualty figures. On the fifth day I went out on a limb to say that according to what I had seen and from reports received, approximately 5,000 citizens were dead, missing or injured. The home ministry, right up to the very top, was livid! Who did I think I was? On what basis was I giving out such wild and exaggerated figures? How many bodies had the police located? The answer at that stage was seven. I was therefore to retract my statement forthwith and correctly state that only seven persons had died and report compliance.
By this time, I was also livid. Who else but the inspector general of the Andaman and Nicobar police was most qualified to assess the numbers? I suggested that the ministry should overrule me and announce their own estimates. That was the end of that. Eventually the government started to pay some attention to our islands.
However much the government lauded its own relief efforts subsequently , it is the humble coconut that supplied food and water to those stranded till help could reach them. More crucially the self-reliance, and the self-belief, of the Nicobari people was the greatest factor in their survival and recovery.