Royal Snit

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SummaryThe erstwhile owners of Lakshadweep are seeking to renegotiate their contract with the Indian state

It appears that the one-time suzerains of the Lakshadweep Islands have taken umbrage at their pitiful treatment at the hands of the Indian state. The Arakkal family, who once exercised dominion over Lakshadweep, are campaigning to extract more funds from the Centre as compensation for the loss of their glittering isles to the British way back in 1908. The princely malikana of R23,000 per year has remained unchanged since the family signed over the islands, and is evidently too low a sum to keep the royals in the style to which they are accustomed. The family is instead petitioning the Centre to consider paying a rather more sizeable malikana of R13 crore a year, reasonably pegged to current gold prices, of course. It seems not to matter that the Indian state is continuing to honour an agreement signed by an imperial government.

It’s too bad for the descendants that the Arakkal family lacked the foresight to demand that the British payout be pegged to inflation, or perhaps they were in no position to negotiate better terms. Either way, the family might be more appreciative that their annual “pittance” survived the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1971, which abolished privy purses and the official recognition of the titles of the ruling families of the erstwhile princely states. The privy purses, which were a condition of accession of the princely territories to newly Independent India, ranged from R5,000 to several lakh, depending on the states. Their abolition was a breach of contract, yes, but one that bolstered India’s republican credentials and, many would argue, was essential for a country that purported to grant equal rights to all its citizens. And at least the abolition of monarchy in India was. all things considered, rather civilised, unlike in France or Russia, where princes and princesses quite literally lost their heads.

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