By Zubair Ahmed

Its forty seven years now that the Islands started sending their elected representatives to Lok Sabha. For the first 15 years after Independence, the Member of Parliament was nominated.

When the Island goes to poll on 10th April 2014, it would be thirteenth time that the Island will elect a representative.

For the first time, in 1967 the people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands exercised their right to send an elected representative to the Lok Sabha. K R Ganesh, a son of the Island, a veteran trade unionist and a political leader, who justified his election, made the Islands an effective entity on the political map of India. He rose to become Deputy Minister of Finance in his first term as Member of Parliament.

The Islanders might be quite justified in questioning his loyalty to the Islands and his contribution towards its development. But his contribution to the growth of trade unions and his crusade against dictatorial bureaucracy of the time cannot be wished away. It was largely due to his efforts that these Islands are a Union Territory now.

But, he proved that as a Member of Parliament, he too can play a major role in setting the destiny of the nation, not just to be a rubber stamp, as the position has been demeaned by his successors.

Whenever he intervened in the debates, he raised questions regarding the development of the Islands. But, the scope of his parliamentary activities did not remain confined to the Islands. He spoke on internal and external policies with force and clarity. He took keen interest in the political struggle against the conservative elements both inside the Congress and outside. His writings and speeches set the tone for discussions on vital issues.

He had found the Andaman Association in 1954 which merged with the Andamans District Congress in 1958 and won the first election on Congress ticket.  K R Ganesh made his maiden speech in the first session of the third Lok Sabha pleading for the development of fisheries and rubber plantation in Andamans, for which he said there was great scope.

In his first address in the House, he said, “…as the population increases as more and more people are settled in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it is becoming absolutely necessary that the administrative system that existed in the Islands must be transformed and further democratic reforms introduced in the Islands…”

On KR Ganesh, The Statesman wrote on 1 April 1967, “Living in the Andamans has not made Mr Ganesh insular. He made his debut in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the Budget with a speech which showed insight into the problems not only of the area he comes from but of the mainland. He wants to specialize in basic economic policies.”

To focus public attention on the problems of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, K R Ganesh asked nearly 170 questions in the Lok Sabha related to administration, development and resources, corruption and administrative lapses, agriculture and new settlement areas, transport and shipping, education, forest and industry, Nicobar and tribal issues. And, the significance of these questions can be judged from the fact that they were tabled during the first 15 months of his election to the Lok Sabha.

Many questions that KR Ganesh asked in 1967 are the same set of questions that his successors, after fifty years are still asking without any major change on the ground.

On 21 December 1967, he raised the issue of scarcity of specialists in the Island hospitals and asked about the efforts of the Government to post doctors possessing specialist qualifications in medicine in the Andaman Civil Hospital. The search for a permanent solution still continues, and maybe the move to establish a Medical College will be the answer he was seeking.

On August 5, 1968, he enquired about the possibility of oil resources in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and about schemes to conduct deep sea drilling in the Islands? On August 6, 1968 he asked about survey of the mineral resources of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. As a result a survey was carried out by the Geological Survey of India, and occurrences of limestone, chromite, asbestos, sulphur, volcanic ash, lignite, coal and clays were recorded.

On 5 July 1967, he also did ask about the result of students who had appeared for the Higher Secondary School Examination and the reason for the dismal performance. The reply was that no special study had been conducted to find out the reasons.

On 3 April 1967, he had asked about a proposal to upgrade the Port Blair Radio Station, and he was told that the equipment required for up-gradation is being arranged and will be implemented within the 4th Five Year Plan. The state of the Station today is nothing to talk about even after 12th Five Year Plan.

The issue of large scale misuse of Government labour for private domestic purposes especially Class IV employees working in the residences of officers was also raised by him in 1967.

It may be debatable whether he was a good representative or not, he did leave a mark. He did falter and he had to pay for it. The Islanders did not give him a second chance. In spite of all his public failings he was the first Islander to hoist and unfurl the national flag at Gymkhana ground on Republic and Independence days. He did make us proud at some point of time. His tenure as Minister had brought these Islands into sharp media focus.


For a contrast, if the report card of his successor, who was elected by the Islanders for about eight terms, is prepared, it would be quite a disappointing exercise.