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Kavaratti, Lakshadweep(UT), 24th December, 2009


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, known for its natural beauty and friendly people.

The Lakshadweep Islands can be called the nation's window to the Indian Ocean, as they are the outermost territory of India, lying in this great ocean. These islands, consisting of atolls and reefs have for centuries been witness to busy sea trade routes and commerce, which plied to and fro across the Indian Ocean, between India and the Gulf region and other lands. Along with commerce came sailors from distant lands. They brought with them social customs and ideas and also interacted with the local population. Such was the attraction of the Lakshadweep Islands, that great travelers such as Al-Beruni, Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo have made references to them in their writings.

Just as the beauty and resources of these islands was a magnet for seafarers in the centuries gone by, even today they are an attractive destination for travelers. The pristine beauty provides great potential for the growth of tourism. However, this sector should be evolved as not only a revenue generator, but also undertaken in a manner which ensures that the ecological balance and natural beauty of the islands is maintained. The Lakshadweep Islands should be eco-friendly habitats, and in this context, eco-tourism as well as cruise tourism can be interesting options that can be explored.

The people of Lakshadweep have a positive attitude towards developmental activities and are aware about their rights and duties. With such a population, the implementation of the various schemes and programmes of development is greatly facilitated. All those involved in administration should develop a people-friendly approach in their work. This is very important as a responsive and accountable system of functioning is fundamental for achieving the goal of sustainable growth.

The development of island territories requires a strategy that provides good connectivity between islands as also with the mainland. Ship, boat and air services are essential for connectivity and all efforts must be made to develop regular and effective transport linkages. However, in today's age, ICT is an effective tool of communication. I am glad that the State Wide Area Network known as SWAN has been implemented in the islands to provide connectivity between the various Government departments. It will be a platform for e-governance and other IT enabled services. Even more significant would be SWAN's ability of ensuring a communication channel for disaster management, in case such needs arise. I am sure that as this Project begins operation today, it shall help in the improvement of education, health awareness, providing information about the weather, entertainment and news delivery services. I am, therefore, happy to be inaugurating the SWAN Project. I hope that as the bandwidth is increased, internet facilities will be extended to the people for their business and personal use.

Science and Technology and its practical applications have a very important place in the scheme for faster progress. Desalination of water, necessary for providing drinking water to the island residents, requires technical expertise. Similarly, as the demand for generation of electricity shall continue to go up, efforts to encourage the use of solar energy, wind energy, bio-energy and other sources of renewable energy should be further strengthened. Apart from working on cutting edge technologies, scientists should also find low-cost technological solutions that are easy to implement and within the reach of end-users. Local authorities can encourage interaction between the scientific community and the general public so that scientists can understand the needs of the people and incorporate it in their research, and people get an opportunity to explain their requirements and problems to researchers.

Health delivery and its improvement is a very important element of any administration's work. Earlier today at the Indira Gandhi Hospital, I inaugurated the Intensive Care Unit. I was happy to see ICU facilities that will now be available for critically ill patients and they would no longer need to travel to the mainland in emergencies. I hope that there would be a continuous effort to improve the availability of health facilities from basic primary health care up to specialty hospitals. The medical community has a special role in ensuring the well being of the people. I would urge them, as I have on several occasions, to come forward to serve people in remote areas.

There are many issues on which the Administration of the Lakshadweep and its people can work on. Education is very important for building an enlightened citizenry. The effort should be that all young girls and boys attend school. Vocational training centres, to impart skills to the youth for making them employable, should be set up. The youth are the future and their holistic development must receive foremost attention.

Being an island territory, I am sure that the people have a natural skill and competence for maritime related professions - shipping, upkeep of shipping vessels and fishery, among others. A strong focus could be given to facilities for value addition to the fish catch. More Self Help Groups and NGOs can be created and NGOs involved in the industry related to coconut production and its by-products. I am sure that co-operative societies would also be able to play a great role here.

We, as a nation, can be proud that we have achieved much since we became of a free nation. We are the world largest democracy, and one of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. The endeavour is to make every constituent of the Indian nation strong and to follow a strategy that allows the benefits of growth to reach all citizens. I can only assure the people of the Lakshadweep that your interest and welfare is important and would receive support from the Government of India.

With these words, I wish all of you a very Happy New Year and may all your wishes be fulfilled in the coming year.

Thank you.

Jai Hind.

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