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

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

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 massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

Top ex-Gujarat babu tells Modi: Not yoga but solar system is our biggest source of energy

By Rajiv Shah  An email alert to Counterview from a top ex-IAS bureaucrat, termed as Gujarat’s turnaround man for revamping loss-making state public sector undertakings (PSUs), has sought to take a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on the Yoga day – that the ancient Indian exercise provides an “infinite solutions” within ourselves, offering “the biggest source of energy in the universe.”

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.

Covid fear? Cremation rituals gone upside down, Dalits asked to do Brahminical rituals

By Abhay Jain, Sandeep Pandey*  As Covid consumes human life in a very conspicuous way we are confronted with additional problem of disposing of human corpses. Cremation grounds are lit with continuous pyres, graveyards are running out of land and now Ganga has become a mass grave potentially polluting its water.