privacy policy

Impact of Historic and Strategic State Policy on Recent Coconut Trade at the Nicobar Islands


· Shaina Sehgal Ambedkar University Delhi (Delhi, India, India)
· Suresh Babu School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi (Kashmere Gate Campus) (Delhi, India)


07/27 | 09:20-09:40 UTC+2/CEST


This paper discusses the archipelago’s protracted recovery in coconut-based exports after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami, based on data collected during ethnographic fieldwork in 2014-18 among producers and traders of coconut-based products at Little Nicobar and Great Nicobar Islands. We discuss the decline and recovery of the islands’ primary economic activity – cultivation, processing and exporting the Coconut (Cocos nucifera) – through analyses of exports and imports at the four revenue ports of the Nicobar archipelago between 2003 and 2017. However, experiences in these activities differ in terms of nature of participation, stability and success. At Great Nicobar Island, Coconut plantations have been increasingly leased to contractors, with cultivators lobbying for better prices. There is also a clear chasm along ethnic lines, between the production and trade practices of Nicobarese tribe and the mainlander communities first settled by the Indian State 1969. This geopolitically motivated resettlement of mainlanders in 1969-79 followed the declaration of the archipelago as a tribal reserve under the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, (ANPATR) 1956. We therefore argue that the differential economic opportunities and outcomes for the people of Nicobar today are shaped by historic and strategic State action in the post-independence period, such as the ANPATR and resettlement of 60s-70s. This case highlights the complex outcomes of State policy for environmental, social and developmental outcomes.