"I am delighted to be with all of you today evening in this historic island that makes us recollect the supreme sacrifice of our freedom fighters.
It is an island of sacrifice. It is an island of indomitable determination. It is an island of breathtaking beauty. It is an island of excellence.
I salute the martyrs like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar Batukeshwar Dutt and Yogendra Shukla who laid down their lives for our country. I appreciate the tenacious hard work of the people of these islands who are trying to realize the dreams of these illustrious freedom fighters.
The picturesque Andaman & Nicobar Islands not only represent the nature’s splendor but are also a microcosm of India’s multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-linguistic social mosaic.
While the islands have become one of the favorite destinations for tourists, their connection with India’s freedom struggle needs to be highlighted so that the people in the rest of the country, particularly the younger generation become aware of the infamous Cellular Jail at Port Blair, where many of India’s freedom fighters were tortured by the British in the most cruel and brutal manner.
These islands were an integral part of the national freedom struggle and hence evoke a sense of reverence and inspiration because of their unique historical legacy. I feel that both the Centre and various State Governments must sponsor visits of school and college students from different parts of the country to the Cellular Jail so that they get acquainted with the sacrifices made by our valiant freedom fighters.
As mentioned earlier, it is a matter of extreme satisfaction that these islands are a shining example of harmonious place of co-existence among different communities.
I have said that these islands are also, in many ways, “islands of excellence” in terms of their achievements and development. Despite severe constraints, Andaman & Nicobar Islands have achieved notable successes in many areas. I am told that the health indicators of the Union Territory are much better than the national average and that 100 per cent immunization has been achieved. This is indeed a remarkable achievement and I express my deep appreciation for the efforts put in by the administration in this regard.
I am also happy to know that the educational indicators are also above the national average and that there are no out of school children.
I am told that ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign is being implemented in all the three Districts and about 49 per cent of the enrolled children in schools are girls. The country cannot make progress if women, who constitute about half the population, lag behind in education. As has been often said educating a woman is equivalent to educating an entire family.
These islands are already attracting a lot of tourists and there is still a tremendous potential that can be tapped if connectivity can be further improved.
I am aware that the Government is taking many steps for the development of these Islands and to overcome the constraints of remote location and poor connectivity. The Government of India has approved a submarine cable project connecting Chennai with Port Blair and six other Islands and the work is expected to be completed within 24 months.
The construction of New Integrated Terminal Building at Port Blair Airport to accommodate peak hour capacity of 1200 passengers is in progress and likely to be completed by June 2020. I am told that subsidized charter flights have started between Port Blair and Chennai and Port Blair and Kolkata. Flight services are being operated between Vishakhapatnam and Port Blair on Viability Gap Funding Model with 50 seats on subsidized fare for islanders.
Similarly, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) has taken up construction of two major Bridges at Middle Strait & Humphrey Strait and two-laning of NH 223. On completion, it would enable seamless passenger and goods movement between Port Blair and North Andaman.
The Inter-Island transportation is expected to receive a huge fillip once two mainland vessels and another two inter-island vessels, being built at Cochin Shipyard, are delivered in 2019-20.
I am also happy that Port Blair city has been selected by the Government of India under Smart City Mission and the process for appointment of Project Management consultant is underway. I am told that Port Blair Municipal Council area has become an ‘LED” municipality with the replacement of all the 13,500 conventional streetlights with LED bulbs in Port Blair town.
I am glad that the administration has taken cognizance of the shortage of specialized medical services and started a Medical college at South Andaman district in July, 2015 in order to provide opportunity of medical education to the aspiring students.
I would also like to compliment the A & N Islands administration for launching “Andaman and Nicobar Islands Scheme for Health Insurance (ANISHI)” to provide cashless medical treatment up to Rs.5 lakh to islanders with family income below Rs.3 lakh per annum and pensioners in empanelled hospitals at mainland.
While complimenting the administration for taking up various developmental and welfare measures, I would like to emphasize the importance of protecting the environment, pristine natural wealth of these islands and the indigenous tribes who have been living here for thousands of years.
These scenic islands situated in the Bay of Bengal with turquoise blue sea, talc like beaches and richness of tropical fauna and flora, complimented by a strong and multi-ethnic and cultural diversity, have huge tourism potential. I am told that the tourist inflow has increased from 3 lakh to 4.87 lakh in the last three years. These islands should become top tourist destinations for international travelers and efforts must be made to tap the tourist potential to the optimum. I feel that proposals like launching of cruise lines like in Europe could be considered between Chennai and Port Blair to give a fillip to tourism.
I am delighted to know that the Govt. of India under the aegis of the Island Development Agency has already considered five Islands for holistic development of which four PPP projects have been identified as ready-to-launch projects. This would promote high-end tourism.
I would also like to compliment the administration for implementing Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in letter and spirit and achieving Open Defecation Free status.
These islands are precious jewels that Mother Nature has given us. Let us preserve them and their pristine purity. Let us add more lustre to them by making them hubs of sustainable socio-economic development. Let us make them the inspirational lighthouses of historical legacy.