Skip to main content

Open access to corporate giants to 'damage' Ladakh's uniqueness beyond repair

Ladakh students seek tribal autonomy, reservation
Counterview Desk
The Vikalp Sangam Core Group (VSCG), a network of civil society organizations claiming to work on alternatives to unsustainable, inequitous development, has asked the Government of India to include Ladakh, declared a Union territory following the bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir, in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Insisting that the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council should have "control over land, natural resources including minerals, tourism, and development policy", so that the land, culture, environment and the economic interests of the people "can be safeguarded for current and future generations", in a statement VSCG says this is especially important against the reported corporate interests in the region.
"Corporate giants have already begun exploring the area for business opportunities (including in tourism) and prospecting for minerals and other natural resources. If they are given an open access, Ladakh will be damaged beyond repair, and India will lose a unique land and culture", VSCG underlines.

Text:

We congratulate the people of Ladakh for getting a Union Territory status, although we do not endorse the means used by the Government of India to give it this status, especially because of its implications for the people of Kashmir.
The people of Ladakh, especially in the Leh district, had been demanding UT status for over seven decades largely because their aspirations were long ignored by the Jammu and Kashmir Government.
They were subjugated, short-changed, and were consigned to perpetual servitude by Kashmir-centric politicians and the Dogra rulers for over 180 years. Therefore, this new status has the potential for political and economic emancipation of the people of Ladakh.
However, UT status without legislature, or adequate constitutional safeguards to protect the unique cultural identity and fragile ecosystem of Ladakh, may jeopardize the prospects of ecologically sustainable economic processes for genuine well-being of the people of the region.
Ladakh, the crown of India, is a land with a unique social and cultural mosaic evolved over centuries. The people in the region have a distinct ethnic identity, language, value system, traditions, and an extraordinary way of life suffused with profound spiritual or religious principles in tune with the natural surrounds. Leh district with its Buddhist heritage and Kargil with its Islamic heritage are part of Ladakh’s rich diversity.
Leh district with its Buddhist heritage and Kargil with its Islamic heritage are part of Ladakh’s rich diversity
Ladakh also has breathtaking natural beauty, and is a geological marvel; but it is also ecologically very fragile. Being at the boundary between the Palearctic and Oriental biogeographical realms, it has unique flora and fauna.
Over 90% of the Trans-Himalayan biogeographical zone within India is located in Ladakh, and harbours a high diversity of rare Pleistocene mammals like the wild yak and the snow leopard. We might lose many of these species, and other crucial elements of biodiversity, if the landscape is not protected from the clutches of the kind of modern unsustainable development that has impacted the rest of India.
Fortunately, Ladakhi people have been at the forefront for centuries when it comes to frugality and conscious use of resources, and they have been the torchbearers of sustainable living. But further unregulated growth of tourism (already causing many problems) and influx of businesses which are not mindful of the fragile nature of the high altitude ecosystem could destroy the fine balance Ladakhis have achieved.
Therefore, we strongly support the demand that has emerged from a majority of the Ladakhis, that the Government of India include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution (with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council also having control over land, natural resources including minerals, tourism, and development policy), so that the land, culture, environment and the economic interests of the people can be safeguarded for current and future generations.
Corporate giants have already begun exploring the area for business opportunities (including in tourism) and prospecting for minerals and other natural resources. If they are given an open access, Ladakh will be damaged beyond repair, and India will lose a unique land and culture.
Additionally, we strongly recommend that the villages of Ladakh be empowered under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, including the application of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act to empower gram sabhas and not only panchayats.
Without safeguards, mandate for Ladakhis to determine their own future, government might run the risk of alienating them
This is essential for local self-governance, and for the people of Ladakh to be involved in a direct and day-to-day basis in determining their present and future. Both the 5th and 6th Schedules should be easily applicable to Ladakh given that more than 90 percent of the population are of Scheduled Tribe status.
Additionally, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 should be expediently applied, especially to enable pastoral and other ecosystem-dependent communities to secure collective rights over landscapes essential for their livelihoods.
Furthermore, without such safeguards and a clear mandate for the people of Ladakh to determine their own future, the government might run the risk of alienating them. The decades-old trust of the people in the Union of India and their hopes will be shattered.
This would be unfortunate, as the Ladakhis have always been manning our borders like a bulwark, living under some of the most difficult conditions with limited infrastructure and bare minimum resources.
They have always been loyal to the Union of India since independence, and put their lives in danger during all the wars in the region; they have even tolerated the massive impact of the armed forces presence across Ladakh.
Thus, the interests and aspirations of the people of the region, and the environment they depend on, need to be honoured and fulfilled. Finally, and in a long-term perspective, it is crucial that India step up its efforts for dialogue with China and Pakistan, to resolve differences in a way that the people in the border areas can thrive, be freed from constant tension and conflict, and be able to govern for the benefit of their future generations and for nature.
We once again congratulate the people of Ladakh, and wish them luck with evolving a path of sustainable well-being in sync with the region’s nature and culture, and building on the best of the past, in its new legal status.

Comments

TRENDING

Astonishingly sycophantic: Ex-Gujarat topcop on 2002 Godhra riots probe panel report

By Rajiv Shah  In a scathing critique of the 2002 communal riots inquiry commission report, released by the Gujarat government in December 2019 five years after it was submitted, the State’s former topcop RB Sreekumar has said that it “unequivocally” and “meticulously” takes care “to refrain from probing and taking cognizance of any deviant action of omission and commission by the State administration, particularly those operating in the criminal justice system, who facilitated extensive mass violence and enabled brigands to perpetrate anti-minority crimes.”

Two of 12 top caste-based sexual violence cases from 'model' Gujarat: NGO report

By Rajiv Shah   The National Council of Women Leaders (NCWL), a civil rights group, has compiled what it has called “landmark cases of caste-based sexual violence” between 1985 and 2020 to mark the first anniversary of the notorious Hathras gangrape case, which led to the death of a young Dalit woman in September 2020.

Riddled with Brahmanical mindset, India's health care 'serving' corporate interests

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  In this second part of my conversation (click here for first part), Dr Manisha Bangar speaks about the health crisis in India how the government is trying to privatise things, and where our response during the Corona period was lacking. She also gives us an understanding of people opposing nutritious meals for children in the mid-day meal.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Anti-Dalit atrocities increase 9.4% despite pandemic, Uttar Pradesh tops the list: Report

By Rahul Singh* Data on crime against Dalits and Adivasis in the Crime In India Report, 2020 draws a distinct pattern of similarity between rural and urban spaces. Published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), they capture some anomalies and interesting trends. The report also shows that a large proportion of crimes against Dalits and Adivasis involves crime against women.

Vindictive raids? Centre 'retaliates' after Delhi govt child rights body's clean chit to ex-babu

By Our Representative  Over 700 academics, advocates, activists, civil servants, writers, film makers, journalists, musicians and artists have condemned the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the offices and private home of top IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander, stating, the aim is nothing but to “harass and intimidate” him.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Power supply lines in Thar 'pushing' Great Indian Bustard to extinction: Researchers

By Rosamma Thomas*  Electricity supply lines pose a huge risk to birds and affect biodiversity, but there is little research about the numbers of birds dying of such collision in the tropical nations. In August 2021, academic journal Biological Conservation carried the results of a survey conducted in 2017-18 on 4,200 sq km of the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan. This was the first comprehensive survey of this nature in the region.