OBC status for Bengali settlers in A&N

KOLKATA, 25 DEC: The Union ministry of social justice and empowerment has finally included the post-1942 Bengali settlers of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Central OBC list facilitating 27 per cent reservation for them in Central government services and posts including higher professional education. The gazette notification was issued on 8 December, 2011.
The Andaman and Nicobar Administration had notified pre-1942 settlers of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprising the indigenous people, Bhatus, Moplahs, Karens and post-1942 Bengali settlers settled in the Islands under various rehabilitation schemes of the Central government as Other Backward Classes (OBC) of the Islands. Out of the five communities, four OBCs, namely local-born people, Bhatus, Moplahs and Karens were included in the Central OBC list but the Post-1942 Bengali settlers remained out of the list.
According to the report on post-1942 Bengali settlers on the islands by Andaman and Nicobar Commission for Backward Classes, 97 per cent of the settlers belong to Scheduled Castes, indicating their backwardness, 90 per cent depend on agriculture for their livelihood, their literacy rate is far below the average literacy rate of the Union Territory.
During World War II, the Japanese occupied Andamans on 21 March 1942 and kept the region under their control till 8 October 1945. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose (file photo) arrived in Port Blair on 29 December, 1943 and was given a ceremonial welcome. He hoisted the National Flag at Port Blair on 30 December, 1943 for the first time during the British regime in India and renamed them as “Shaheed-dweep” (Martyr Island) and “Swaraj-dweep” (Self-rule Island). General Loganathan, of the Indian National Army, was made the Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On 22 February 1944, he along with four INA officers arrived at Lambaline Airport in Port Blair. On 21 March 1944 the Headquarters of the Civil Administration was established near the Gurudwara at Aberdeen Bazaar. The islands were reoccupied by British and Indian troops of the 116th Indian Infantry Brigade on 7 October 1945. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands together with the rest of India, attained Independence on 15 August, 1947. Large numbers of Bengalis had come to Andamans after Independence. They came as ‘settlers’ under the government rehabilitation scheme, which started as early as 1949 and continued till the 1970s. All these groups migrated to the Andamans from different districts of Bangladesh.
A large community of Bengalis whose fathers has settled in the island post-1942 hailed the decision and said that this would address the long pending grievances of the Bengali settlers living in the Islands.
The matter pertaining to inclusion of the Post-1942 Bengali settlers in the Central OBC list was vigorously taken up by the Lt.-Governor, Lt Gen (Retd) Bhupinder Singh with the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment with continued demands by the Bengali community to include them in the Central OBC list.

Soma Basu

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