What Will It Be: Maldives Or Lakshadweep?

What Will It Be: Maldives Or Lakshadweep?

V SudarshanUpdated: Wednesday, January 10, 2024, 09:16 AM IST
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What Will It Be: Maldives Or Lakshadweep? |

Will it be Maldives or Lakshadweep? You need a police clearance to get into Lakshadweep. It is a movement regulator, rather like the Inner Line Permit required to travel in some areas in the North East. The application process is quite tedious, and for the commoner, it is like a lottery, claim sources.

There is no guarantee that all those who apply will be cleared. There is only one flight daily from the mainland, Kochi, to Agatti, the only island in the archipelago off the south western coast with a functioning air strip.

Only the smaller aircraft land in Agatti. Even by ship, and there is only one for tourists, it takes about fourteen hours; the tickets are uncertain at best. Which is why, you probably haven't seen even one celebrity -- who has endorsed Lakshadweep over Maldives -- post an Instagram reel from Agatti yet.

The beaches of Kavaratti, Minicoy, Kalpeni, Kadmat, Bangaram, Kiltan and Amini await the roll of the drums announcing the arrival of the likes of Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, John Abraham, Shraddha Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut. They will be among the privileged few to visit.

In 2022, as many as 22,800 people were able to visit Lakshadweep. Which is about 62.46 people per day. Not much of a figure, you will admit for an archipelago consisting of 12 atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks, with an area of 32 sq km divided among ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands and attached islets, four newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs.

According to ceicdata.com, the visitor footfall averaged 6,764 persons from December 1997 to 2022. It touched a peak of 22,941 in 2006 and a record low of 1,087 in 2000. No wonder, Prime Minister Modi tweeted, “In addition to the scenic beauty, Lakshadweep's tranquillity is also mesmerising.”The lesser the people, better the prospects of tranquillity. There were, if you noticed, no one else in the frames from the many angles the prime minister was photographed, as he paced the sands thoughtfully, lonely as a cloud, with a faraway gaze (towards Maldives, down south?), in two different kurtas, once hand clutching what looked like an I-pad. If you are tourist looking for sun, sand and Goa-type tourist nights fuelled by alcohol, you might as well forget it.

Alcohol is a no-no, except in one island. It is a great place for teetotallers, though. Snorkeling is good, even without brand endorsement from the prime minister. What kind of an infrastructure do you think there would be required for the kind of rush being hyped up by the social media driven #boycottMaldives campaign?

Comparisons can sometimes be more ridiculous than odious. On the other hand, take Maldives, barely 400 nautical miles southwards. Since 2013, about one million tourists descend every year on Maldives, that is, 10 lakh a year, contributing 73 per cent of the GNP. At 10 lakh a year, it works out to 2739.72 arrivals per day. In 2023, over 17 lakh tourists visited. This means more people visit the Maldives every ten days, than they visit Lakshadweep in a year.

Sources who have been posted in the Indian embassy there say there is truly no comparison with Lakshadweep either in the range of accommodation, luxury, or kind of clientele. Maldives operates over 132 island resorts, practically a resort to an atoll or an island. Tourists come in regular flights and charter flights from Europe and elsewhere, Chinese, Germans, Russians, Americans and Indians. Resorts stock the best from Singapore, or Colombo, or elsewhere.

They say that even if Lakshadweep starts developing at breakneck pace, following Prime Minister's Modi's visit, with easier access, better infrastructure, it will take more than a decade to catch up in some measure with the Maldives. Meanwhile the best time for the celebrities to visit could be around May 2023, when the sun is high, the sand dazzling white, and PM selfie points on every beach, preferably with him wearing wetsuit and aqualung.

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