IT is a wonder that Port Blair functions normally at all. Everything it needs has to be shipped or flown across from the mainland. Yet the town and its suburbs, with a population of about 1.5 lakh, function without hiccups. The town wears a prosperous look. Roads meander up and down hilly slopes. There is no begging on the streets.
What is more, the town is a mini-India and has an exemplary record of communal harmony. It is populated by people from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and former East Pakistan (Bangladesh). They are the descendants of freedom fighters or those convicted, and exiled to serve terms in the Cellular Jail in Port Blair during the British Raj. Others who came to Port Blair before 1947 were government officials working in the Cellular Jail, or in the Education Department, the Public Works Department and so on. Traders came from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and fishermen from Andhra Pradesh. After Independence, they settled in the islands.
The lingua franca is Hindi. Members of the Nicobarese tribe also speak Hindi. Interregional marriages are common.T.S. Subramanian