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Govt may bring back restricted area permit regime to Andaman islands

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NEW DELHI: While the home ministry is not averse to reimposing restricted area permit (RAP) regime to Andaman & Nicobar’s North Sentinel Island, where a US national was killed last month by Sentinelese tribesmen, and a few other islands inhabited by primitive tribes, it might not favour this approach to Little Andaman and Great Nicobar islands in view of their potential for eco-tourism and maritime development.

The suggestion to restore RAP regime in six islands inhabited by particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) — Strait Island (housing Andamanese), Middle and South Andaman (housing Jarawas), North Sentinel Island (Sentinelese), Little Andaman (Onges) and Great Nicobar (Shompens) — has come from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) after US national John Allen Chau was killed by members of the ‘uncontacted’ Sentinelese tribe.

Sources in the home ministry said Great Nicobar was the largest island in Andaman & Nicobar covering 1,000 sq km, of which around 700 sq km was a tribal reserve. “The remaining 300 sq km has tremendous potential for holistic development and can be developed as an attractive tourist destination on the lines of Bali and Maldives. Similarly, Little Andaman has a good area outside the tribal/forest reserve that is being explored for setting up eco-tourism projects. We can bring in forex earnings from tourism while ensuring that the tribal reserve remains untouched,” an officer said.

A committee under Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy is examining how to address land issues for holistic development of Little Andaman and Great Nicobar.

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