February 2, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether all is well in Ladakh after the abrogation of Article 370. We also look at the plans for the proposed capital city in Andhra Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
The Article 370 postscript: Is all well in Ladakh?
On January 30, Ladakhi engineer and innovator Sonam Wangchuk completed his five-day Climate Fast for Ladakh’s environmental and regional concerns. Wangchuk, a vocal supporter of the BJP and its Jammu and Kashmir abrogation, was allegedly put under house arrest and asked to abstain from any activities “related to Leh district at present times”.
Wangchuk claims that all is not well in Ladakh. It corresponds with the growing disenchantment of Ladakhis over the past four years. The abrogation of Article 370 promised a better future for the people of the Union Territories (UT), but whether the achhe din are being delivered, is a matter up for debate.
The year was 2019. On August 5, the Central government abrogated Article 370, a constitutional provision that allowed some form of autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill split the state into two UTs – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh – to be governed directly by the Centre through the Lieutenant Governor.
To be sure, a substitution of Kashmir-centric rule had been a longstanding demand of the Buddhist-majority Leh. Muslim-majority Kargil, however, remained apprehensive. If Leh’s demand was met, then why are Ladakhis now protesting the abrogation?
And why is a former supporter of the BJP now calling the system a “total failure” and an instrument of leading the Ladakhis astray? The answer is that the new arrangement has not met the people’s core demands for Ladakh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution (SS) and possible statehood.
The SS allows states with more than 50% of a tribal population to form Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) with qualified legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy. Presently, it applies to Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura.
With over a 97% tribal population, Ladakh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule will help preserve the region’s distinct cultural heritage.
In September 2019, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes sealed the debate by recommending the inclusion of Ladakh under the SS. But, the centre did not concur. Even when Ladakh’s only Lok Sabha minister and BJP member raked it up, the centre remained evasive.
The centre’s negligence cleared the path for the Leh and Kargil leadership to resolve their almost 60-year-old differences and form a joint front against Ladakh’s status as a UT.
In the last couple of months, two clusters of religious, social and political organisations – the Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance – protested in Jammu to ask for statehood, increased political representation in the form of two Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha seat, and the prompt recruitment and formation of Ladakh Public Service Commission (PSC). The centre had clarified last year that it has no plans to fulfil the last demand.
Now that we know the stakes, let’s get into the debate about Ladakh’s well-being after Article 370 was pulled.
VIEW: Mo’ development, mo’ jobs
Ladakh’s UTisation was effected with cognisance of the importance of safeguarding the Ladakhis’ right to job protection. So in 2021, the centre announced that only those who were permanent residents before August 5, 2019, and living in Leh and Kargil districts are eligible for non-gazetted jobs in the Ladakh UT.
By addressing the people’s demand for job reservation, the centre acquiesced to a critical stipulation of the Leh-Kargil movement. While the same order has not been extended to Jammu and Kashmir, in Ladakh, it has provided the people with a semblance of security.
A robust structure of knowledge economy and employment is necessary to change Ladakh’s underdevelopment story. So, the centre has apportioned sizeable funds for infrastructure development, education, and health.
Recently, the Sonam Norbu Memorial district hospital in Leh was equipped with state-of-the-art medical apparatus. The administration is also expediating the set up of Leh’s first government medical school’s academic session. What’s more, plans for Leh’s first-ever central university are underway, too.
Better infrastructure is probably the centre’s prime consideration in the region. Infrastructural development will enhance connectivity in remote areas and ensure smoother operations of the Armed Forces. For instance, the 18-km Zojila tunnel connecting Ladakh and Kashmir will substantially reduce travel time. Not only will this aid the movement of troops and military equipment, but also patients seeking help in Srinagar.
But this doesn’t mean that local artisans will be neglected. The centre has approved an integrated multi-purpose corporation in Ladakh which, among other things, will boost job creation and look after the marketing of local products and handicrafts.
The abrogation has ensured minimal disparity in initiating socio-economic development in Ladakh. The region’s agriculture-heavy economy is likely to witness growth if and when investment pours in.
COUNTERVIEW: An urgent need is to listen to the people
Infrastructural development and military operability do not tackle the full range of issues that plague the Ladakhis after Article 370 was revoked.
The abrogation has left Ladakh bereft of a legislature and powers over laws affecting livelihoods and community rights. The decisive exclusion of Ladakh from the Sixth Schedule threatens the region’s land and territorial sustainability and heightens the burden on its limited resources.
The UT setup has truncated job opportunities in the region. The Leh-Kargil alliance reveals that the arena of political and bureaucratic decision-making has been hijacked by the centre. The absence of PSC in Ladakh has produced a katzenjammer over recruitment since more than 5,000 posts, including 1,000 gazetted posts, lie vacant.
The centre has tabled glacier recession alerts in Ladakh in favour of business proposals. With many areas facing water scarcity, an abundance of business and industrial enterprises like mining will only exacerbate the problem of melting glaciers, a major source of people’s drinking water.
The double whammy of climate change and development is glaringly visible in the loss of traditional livelihoods. The multi-pronged corporation is acutely limited in its protection of local livelihoods like pastoralism, which is a mainstay of the Changhthan economy.
A parochial focus on infrastructural growth will most likely endanger wildlife in the region. Take the Tibetan gazelle, for example. It has a small presence in Ladakh and is confined to the Tibetan plateau. Roads built for military mobility have restricted the animals’ movement, thereby minimising the species’ range and spread.
What is worse is we have known for decades that development comes at a cost disproportionately borne by indigenous tribes. Political empowerment of the Ladakhis through representation and Hill Development Councils will ensure that the era of growth envisaged by the present government is set in motion by safe hands.
Concerns about unemployment, alienation of land, culture, language, and demographic transformation have very little chance of being neglected if Ladakhis have a legitimate say.
- Sonam Wangchuck on fast: Why the Ladakh-based engineer is protesting – The Indian Express
- In Leh and Kargil, different reasons to oppose Ladakh’s current status – The Indian Express
- Buddhist-Majority Leh & Muslim-Majority Kargil Unite To Demand Autonomy For Ladakh – Article 14
- Sonam Wangchuk is right. All is not well with Ladakh’s glaciers – Down to Earth
- Cabinet approves setting up central university in Ladakh – The Indian Express
- Environment, the Unsuspecting Victim of Cross-Border Conflicts – The Bastion
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Ladakh is doing better after the abrogation of Article 370.
b) Ladakh is faring worse after the abrogation of Article 370.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Modi is opening BJP to minorities. We can thank Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra for it
For the Left:
Yes, Adam Tooze, this really is India’s moment in the world
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Encouraging youngsters to attend investors summit (Uttar Pradesh) – As the state gears up to hold the global investor’s meet, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has formed a team of 48 officials to visit colleges and encourage students to participate. They’ll talk about the summit’s importance and invite some students to the events planned in their respective districts. Adityanath wants youngsters to realise why the summit is beneficial for their future.
Why it matters: The three-day summit is being organised to attract domestic and international investments across various sectors. Citing an improvement in the law and order situation in the state, Adityanath said the government received investments worth ₹4.68 lakh crores during the 2018 summit. He said the government has reversed some policies and focused on the eastern parts of the state and the Bundelkhand regions.
Capital shift (Andhra Pradesh) – Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy officially announced that Vizag would be the state capital. Since the announcement, party members are now openly talking about it. Some leaders said the state administration would operate from Vizag before April. The government wants to get out of any legal wrangles and begin administrative operations in April.
Why it matters: Last year, the High Court ruled that there can’t be a rule for a three-capital plan, with the other two being Kurnool and the existing capital Amaravati. The case is currently pending in the Supreme Court. Reddy has favoured Vizag as the Executive capital. When Telangana was carved out, the new state got Hyderabad as its capital. Vizag is the largest and most populous city in Andhra Pradesh.
Governor returns Domicile Bill (Jharkhand) – Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais returned the Domicile Bill that defines a local in the state based on the 1932 land records. Relations between the Governor and Chief Minister Hemant Soren have been strained since September over another matter. Bais said the bill mentions only locals identified would be eligible for class 3 and 4 appointments in the state government. He said the bill goes against Supreme Court orders.
Why it matters: The eligibility criteria for government appointments, according to Bais, is against Article 16 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality in employment. He said the state legislature doesn’t have the power to impose employment conditions. The government included a provision in the bill that it would come into force after the Centre introduced amendments to include it in the Ninth Schedule.
Facility to prevent cyber crimes (Rajasthan) – The state government has allocated ₹18.40 crores to set up a facility to prevent cyber-related crimes. It’s called the Centre for Cyber security, counter-terrorism, and anti-insurgency. With this, state-level, commissionerate-level, and district-level labs will be developed. Software will be developed in the lab for cyber security, crime intelligence, and research and prevention.
Why it matters: This is the most recent step the state government has taken to tackle cyber crimes. It has already set up cyber police stations in all districts with the necessary equipment. The Centre will help officials get information about new malware, threats, and viruses. They’ll also be trained on the latest updates on cyber-related crimes and ways to prevent and report them.
Protests over citizens’ origin (Sikkim) – There were peaceful protests across the state after the Supreme Court observed that Sikkimese Nepalis were people of foreign origin. The protestors have given the government seven days to rectify the act of humiliation, as they put it. Keshav Sapkota, general secretary of JAC, said the state has a week to pass a resolution on this. There were some protests in Darjeeling also.
Why it matters: Last month, a verdict was delivered on the petition filed by the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim (AOSS). They wanted an exemption from income tax for the old settlers in Sikkim before its 1975 merger with India. The court exempted old settlers of Indian origin from paying income tax. Old settlers of Indian origin living in Sikkim before the merger were excluded.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹1.55 lakh crores – The GST collection for January was ₹1.55 lakh crores. It’s the second-highest amount per the finance ministry. Revenues in the current financial year up to January 2023 are 24% higher than in the same period last year.