By: Dr MNM Shabani
“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
These words of the man who was instrumental in gaining us liberty from two centuries of slavery is very much relevant to our times now specifically to the leadership and people of my homeland Kargil.
Under Article 1 of the Constitution, the territory of India comprises three categories of which only two territories as territories of the states and union territories are in existence. At present there are twenty eight states and nine union territories as the state of Jammu and Kashmir is substituted with two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh. The states are the members of the federal system in India and share a distribution of power with the Centre while the union territories, on the other hand, are those areas which are under the direct control and administration of the Central government hence also known as centrally administered territories.
THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR REORGANISATION BILL, 2019 paved way for creation of union territory Ladakh as with the introduction of this bill the very special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir stands abrogated with two third majority in both the houses of parliament. The conferment of Union Territory Ladakh is welcomed in Leh district but in Kargil the leadership as well as people are unable to express a vivid discourse hence am compelled to write this article for better understanding of the concept myself as well as for the educated youth so that our discourses is based on reasons rather than emotions.
The union territories have been created for a variety of reasons such as Political and Administrative consideration – Delhi and Chandigarh, Cultural distinctiveness – Puducherry, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Strategic importance – Andaman and Nicobar islands, Special treatment and care of the backward and tribal people – Lakshadweep. The three objects of cultural distinctiveness, strategic importance and special treatment and care of the backward and tribal people are very much applicable for creation of Union Territory of Ladakh, however, the STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS of the bill states that “The Ladakh Division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a large area but is sparsely populated with a very difficult terrain. There has been long pending demand of people of Ladakh, to give it the status of a Union Territory to enable them to realise their aspirations. The Union Territory of Ladakh will be without Legislature. ” The object of large area, sparsely populated and difficult terrain is another distinctive nature of Ladakh considered for granting Union Territory beside a long pending demand.
Historical account of Ladakh do reveal that the leadership of Leh district demanded the status of Union Territory right from the beginning of Independence but after bifurcation of Ladakh into Kargil and Leh district in the year 1979 no such demand was ever made by the leadership and people of Kargil district. Kargil district denounced the demand of Union Territory as Leh district’s object of demanding is to liberate from Kashmir centric political setup and Kargil historically always preferred Kashmir. This inculcated a wrong spirit among the people of Kargil that any demand of more empowerment by the people of Leh will result in disassociation with Kashmir hence the leadership of Kargil remained very sceptical and insensitive to demands like Schedule Tribe and LAHDC status but later hugged seeing the benefits of it. Intensive projection of demands on communal grounds and apathy of Leh leadership towards Kashmir whereas a strong association and linkage of people of Kargil with Kashmir and with strong political association of Kargil with Kashmir based political parties always created sense of insecurity among people of Kargil to avail better opportunities in fear that they will be disown by political hierarchy of Kashmir. The association remained so strong that even being majority Muslim population in the district, people of Kargil never supported or shown inclination to any idea of separation from Indian state. The Kargil war of 1999 was also an instrumental opportunity for people of Kargil to exemplify their sense of nationalism and devotion to their mother land but was unable to capitalise their sacrifice into economic consideration from the Central government purely due to lack of strong political linkages with the Central government as well as ineffective leadership.
The year 2018-2019 seems good omen for the region Ladakh and in particular to district Kargil as significant development witnessed in regard to new political and administrative aspiration. United Kargil effort and more enthusiasm as compared to Leh in demanding Central University for Ladakh was an important shift of religious and political organisations of district Kargil thereby immediate rectification by state government of equal share in administrative setup of University of Ladakh Act,2018; the divisional status granted to Ladakh and its aftermath when during chilling winters of January 2019 the whole Kargil united came out on street expressing their resentment for injustice done and the massive rally in winter capital of the state amazed not only the state government but even the Centre that people of Kargil do now believe that they cannot be ignored or marginalised by any dispensation whatsoever of political ideology as far as their right of equal share and participation is guaranteed. Such events are rare in the history of political and administrative aspiration of Kargil and this need to be further directed and strengthen. The achievement so made was due to effective coordination, consultation with stakeholders and collective participation beside wide differences among different religious and political groups prevails. The historic dispensation of Divisional Status to Ladakh and proportionate share to both the district in administrative control has further the belief that Ladakh gets it due share when the state is controlled by the Central government whereas the popular government in the state of any political party would never have thought of such greater administrative autonomy as of the status of Divisional Status. If budget statistics of State Sector over the years are surfed we being the third region of the state got peanuts from the popular successive governments and our political leaderships are witnessed to it. These are the very instances which must be always remembered by the people of Kargil and its political and religious leadership that we can move ahead and fulfil our aspiration as Ladakh region and not as a subsidiary of any other region. The gain of Union Territory Ladakh thus needs a different outlook and understanding than what we as of now.
It’s very evident that divisional status is a greater administrative autonomy and thereby Union Territory is highest except to the State status as far as better administrative control, economic prosperity and accessibility but due to the distinctiveness of the region both the district must be united to chalk out the modalities so that many reservations as well as safeguards which were available to our region under special status of the state could be the part of Union Territory of Ladakh. Under the constitution of India many other States as well as Union Territories are conferred with such provisions to safeguard their distinctive identity and culture.
Article 244 in Part X of the Constitution envisages a special system of administration for certain areas as designated as ‘scheduled areas’ and ‘tribal areas’. The Constitution, under Sixth Schedule, contains special provisions for the administration of tribal areas in the four north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The tribal areas in these states are treated differently by the Constitution and sizeable amount of autonomy has been given to these people for self-government due to the fact that these tribal areas have not assimilated much the life and ways of other people in these states, on the other hand, still have their roots in their own culture, customs and civilizations. These tribal areas have been constituted autonomous districts of similar nature of LAHDC and enjoy privileges and safeguards so that their cultural and tribal distinctiveness remains protected. Shifting of Autonomous District Council to Regional Council under Union Territory Ladakh will be a milestone in promoting coexistence among different cultural, religious and linguistic identities of the region. The district or regional councils shall have power to make laws with respect to and can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, can construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, roads and so on and are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes. In regard to land which is the biggest worry of every Ladakhi the Sixth Schdeule staes as: the allotment, occupation or use or the setting apart, of land, other than any land which is reserved forest for the purposes of agriculture or grazing or for residential or other non-agricultural purposes or for any other purpose likely to promote the interests of the inhabitants of any village or town, administer the areas under their jurisdiction. Further, The same Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2003, Additional powers of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council and the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council to make laws with respect to (a) Industries (b) Communication (c) Live Stocks (d) Primary and Secondary Education (e) Agriculture (f) Fisheries (g) Water (h) Social Security & Employment (i) Flood Control Schemes (j) Sports, Entertainment & Amusements (k) Public Health & Sanitation, Hospital & Dispensaries (l) minor irrigation (m) Trade & Commerce (n) Libraries & Museum. In addition in the same Schedule the Bodoland Territorial Council within its areas shall have power to make laws in addition to areas mentioned earlier: (a) Cooperation (b) Cultural Affairs (c) Education including vocational and College Education (d) Food and Civil Supply (e) Handloom & Textile (f) Labour & Employment (g) Market Affairs (h) Municipal Corporations, Local Authorities (i) Panchayat & Rural Development (j) Planning & Development (k) Printing & Stationery (l) Public Health Engineering (m) Public Works Department (n) Publicity & Public Relations (o) Relief & Rehabilitations (p) Social Welfare (q) Soil Conservation (r) Statistics (s) Tourism (t) Urban Development. All the stated privileges can be availed by including the whole Ladakh region in Scheduled Tribal Area under Sixth Schedule. As per THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR REORGANISATION BILL, 2019 under TABLE-4 includes LADAKH AUTONOMOUS HILL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL ACT, 1997 as State Acts including Governor’s Act that shall remain in force in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir; and Union Territory of Ladakh. Both the Autonomous Councils must coordinate and collectively put forth the demand for strengthening existing LAHDC Act and inclusion of above provisions which were extended to the other Autonomous Councils of Cachar, Karbi Anglong and Bodoland. THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR REORGANISATION BILL, 2019 under para 66 states that the Constitution Jammu and Kashmir (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1989, shall stand applied to the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union territory of Ladakh. On the basis of same legislation wherein around 84% population belongs to Scheduled Tribe, Ladakh region may be included under Sheduled Tribe Area under Sixth Schedule to avail the stated benefits of Scheduled Tribe Area.
Articles 371 to 371-J in part XXI of the constitution contain special provisions for twelve states. The intention behind them is to meet the aspirations of the people of backward regions of the states or to protect the cultural and economic interests of the tribal people of the states or to deal with the disturbed law and order condition in some parts of the states or to protect the interests of the local people of the states. The Union Territory of Ladakh has become vulnerable and needs safeguard measures as envisage in the constitution. The largest area and sparsely populated is a very distinctive feature of the region and without certain protection the demography of the region is at stake. There is immense anxiety among the population that with new legislation there will be massive influx of trade, industry and commerce as well as of people who are alien to the cultural, religious and traditional ethos of Ladakhis which they have always upheld for centuries. Our region does have a very fragile ecology and environmental condition which needs traditional approach to tackle with. Rapid industrialisation in the region and increase in density of population will adversely impact socio cultural fabric. A narrow population of around 300 thousand souls will be exposed to minority risk unless land ownership and employment rights are not protected as government and defence jobs are the only service industry available to Ladakhis which provide maximum employment opportunities. All these concerns of the people need to be safeguarded within the ambit of Constitution as the stated articles do honour. Article 371 provides for adequate employment opportunities in respect of stated areas in Maharashtra and Gujrat, 371-A provides for ownership and transfer of land and its resources to Nagaland, 371-G provides for ownership and transfer of land and its resources to Mizoram, 371-J provides for reservation of seats in educational and vocational training institutions in the region for students who belong to the region and reservation in state government posts in the region for persons who belong to the region of Hyderabad-Karnataka region.
In para 83. (1) of THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR REORGANISATION BILL, 2019 it is mentioned that the award of Fourteenth Finance Commission be apportioned between the two Union Territories on the basis of population ratio and other parameters. Representatives of the region must project to the concerned committee that due share must be apportioned to Union Territory of Ladakh not on the basis of population ratio alone but more consideration on the basis of scattered population and large area of the region as in the same para (2) specifically mentions that the Central Government may, having regard to the resource available to the successor Union territory of Ladakh make appropriate grants and also ensure that adequate benefits and incentives in the form of special development package are given to the backward area of this region. The representation must also deal with the issues of generation of hydro as well as solar power energy from the region as the region is rich in its natural capacities of power generation. An adequate employment opportunity as well as share of revenue to the consolidated fund of Union Territory of Ladakh for its further development needs to be guaranteed. In the same manner, as per para 85. (1) (e) issues related to facilities in certain State Institutions, the representation from the region must ensure that the existing facilities available to the region in terms of admission in medical colleges, universities and in other technical institute must continue until the proper infrastructure and facilities are not developed within the Union Territory of Ladakh. Due consideration is also required for special provisions to the students and aspirants of the Union Territory Ladakh in terms of reservation and admission in different institutes of importance all over the country. It is pertinent to mention that University of Ladakh must be converted into full-fledged university directly under the ambit of MHRD instead of existing cluster university status and all the colleges in existence must be the constituent colleges of the University of Ladakh. In view of the large number of faculties in higher education department the representatives must ensure immediate creation of posts in newly established colleges as well as increase in number of teaching posts in two prime colleges of Leh and Kargil. Emphasis is needed to augment the infrastructure of educational sector in special reference as education is the only major contributory of employment opportunities in the region. In reference to para 93 (2) wherein The Union Public Service Commission will serve the needs of the Union Territory of Ladakh; effective representation must be made by both LAHDCs that the concerned DSSRBs be empowered for recruitment up to the grade of undersecretary level within the Union Territory of Ladakh. The Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education Act, 1975 which continues in the Union Territory of Ladakh must be gradually replaced with Central Board of School Education; however, the academic calendar must be framed considering the climatic condition of Union Territory of Ladakh. In the interest of students and issues pertaining to their scholarship the Tribal Affairs department must be established under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and ample scholarship opportunities under the Ministry of Minority Affairs is extended as the Union Territory of Ladakh comprises the majority tribal and minority.
Employees are one of the major stakeholders and in new legislation their interest needs to be safeguarded. All the benefits which are available to a central employee are extended to the existing employees of Union Territory of Ladakh. The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 extended to Union Territory of Ladakh must increase the percentage of reservation for the schedule tribe and the roaster for reservation in promotion must consider the proportion of Scheduled Tribe population ratio within the Union Territory of Ladakh. The General Provident Fund assets need to be converted into Central Provident Fund for the enhance security of enhancement and benefit to the employees. Special concessions need to be availed for all employees working on temporary basis under different departments. Special provision must replace SRO 202 and SRO 520.
I do assert that whatever quoted in this article is merely going through various provisions of the law. Neither I a student of Law nor the student of political science but being an academician and feeling the sense of ambiguity among the people of Kargil in particular and among the present leadership it’s a humble endeavour to bring clarity for myself and the people. It is very much obvious that the researchers, scholars and experts on subject will find many flaws in content as well as interpretation that need immediate rectification hence intensive critical analysis is required. Humbly request the readers to give their valuable feedback so that the document is made more relevant to understand the new structure of Union Territory of Ladakh.
Alas, as a native of this district I advocate all of us to move ahead on the basis of reasons and judicious arguments rather than on the basis of ignorance and emotions. We are well aware that neither we were party to this decision nor our wishes were consulted and we are not in a position to undo things. There is a wide economic gap between the two district of this region and that has to be minimised under the Union Territory of Ladakh. Leh district has always remained centre of administration and policy making right from the time of Dogra rule and has gained significance in all areas of development. It remained district headquarter for three decades in independent India and on the other side Kargil got district status in the year 1979 and it took another decade to function as a district. Whatever development and prosperity we are witnessing is just after Kargil war of 1999 which gave recognition and importance to this part of Ladakh. The imbalance in terms of all around development between the two districts will further get widened due to new legislation as it’s very much evident that the already developed district will accelerate its development at a higher pace and the developing district have to concentrate more on development of infrastructure and basic necessities. The formal and informal leadership of the district as well the government must at the first instance articulate policies to minimise the structural imbalances within the territory and special package be granted for the backward areas of district Kargil as assured in para 83. (2) of the bill. Our leaders and masses must put forth the demand of early construction of Zojila Tunnel, Civil air services, extension of Kargil town on Kurbathang plateau beside extensive infrastructure development in all sectors. The religious as well as political organisations of the district must collectively constitute a panel of resourceful persons of different expertise and calibre so that it serves a platform for threadbare discussion and consultation to move on the road ahead. The cloud of hopelessness and disparity must shirk away, let’s spread the light of hope and optimism and spirit to compete in right perspective. Allah says: Man is not but he strives.
The author Dr MNM Shabani is an Assistant Professor in Commerce at Govt. Degree College, Kargil.
*Suggestions, counter arguments, critical analysis as well any sort of corrections required is solicited on his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.