The Bharatiya Janata Party in the Ladakh region has sought an amendment to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Act with an aim to empower hill councils of the region with executive, financial and legislative powers.
In a meeting with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday, Member of the Parliament and President of BJP in Ladakh region, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, called for an amendment in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act seeking executive, legislative, and financial powers to ensure constitutional safeguards of identity, land, jobs, and environmental rights of the people of Ladakh.
Namgyal told Outlook that the Home Minister’s response was positive. He said the Home Minister has already assured on these demands in his parliament speech. “Things have got delayed because of Covid-19 and now because of farmers protest,” the Ladakh BJP president said.
Other demands that the BJP Ladakh president has put forth before the Home Minister include; making Ladakh budget especially council funds non-lapsable, creation of new districts in Ladakh, filling-up of available vacancies of 6500 posts.
At the present, the Ladakh Union Territory has two districts Leh and Kargil. He also sought the creation of Ladakh Public Service Commission and creation of Ladakh Administrative Services, Ladakh Police Services, and Ladakh Forest Services.
Namgyal says in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Hill Councils were under Jammu and Kashmir State and after Ladakh was declared a Union Territory, it is under Home Ministry. He says in contrast to Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is a Union Territory without a Legislative Assembly.
“Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council represents people’s aspirations through the elected representatives. So we are expecting more financial, executive, and legislative powers. All matters pertaining to the region cannot be referred to parliament every time. So we are expecting legislative, financial, and executive powers to the LAHDCs,” he said.
The LAHDC, Leh was constituted in accordance with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act of 1995 during PV Narasimha Rao's government and its first election was held in 1995. Later, during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led PDP rule in 2003, similar council was established for Kargil district.
After the revocation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019—Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir—demand for the sixth schedule for Ladakh started coming from the Leh region while Kargil region sought restoration of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir or state status for Ladakh.
Ladakh based political parties, after the abrogation of Article 370, are complaining that their powers are being undermined. Unlike Kargil, the Leh the region welcomed Union Territory status but they are now concerned about the demography of the region. Ahead of the LAHDC Leh, polls held in October 2020, prominent political leaders and parties including the BJP, and religious monks from the region formed the Peoples Movement for Ladakh. The Peoples Movement for Ladakh demands constitutional safeguards for locals of the region under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
In Kargil, an amalgam of different political and religious parties of Kargil have been formed and it is called, Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA). The KDA seeks complete statehood for Ladakh with the legislature.
On September 3, 2020, BJP led LAHDC Leh had passed a resolution, seeking safeguards under Article 371 of the Constitution of India or Sixth Schedule or domicile law, to protect the tribal rights of the indigenous people of Ladakh.
“We see the statement of the BJP president of Ladakh in this perspective that no one is happy with the UT status of Ladakh. Majority of Ladakh irrespective of any religion or region are seeking statehood for Ladakh with all legislative powers,” says Asgar Ali Kabalai, co-chairman of the KDA, told Outlook.