Geostrategic significance, discrimination and way to sustainable development of Ladakh region

By Tsering Tandup Leh, Mar 20, 2014
Leh :
Ladakh has its own important geostrategic location as compared with other parts of the country. Ladakh region touches two very significant international boundaries i.e. China in Eastern side and Pakistan in the Western side. Both the countries play a significant role in the arena of International issues with India. It is the policy of every country to have cordial and peaceful relations with its neighbours and the key is to have a prosperous and developed transition zone (border area). The eastern border of Changthang since long has been inhabited by the most backward Changpa community, which has carried forward and maintained the rich cultural and traditional values. The reward, in turn, they have received by now is their physical, social, economic and political marginalization.  We have lost our homes and agricultural land during the wars of 1947, 1962, 1965, and 1971 and in 1999.

We too are the real heroes of our nation. Our patriotism stands high speaking our commitments and love for the country, which we have proved more than once and God willing we will continue the same on all fronts. Unfortunately, till date, we remain cut off from the rest of the nation for more than six months during the winters and the best excuse on the part of the Government is geographical location. On contrary China in the contagious landscape has successfully introduced railway link beyond Lhasa towards the international boundary. It is still ironical that a Ladakh has yet to pay more than Rs 18,000 airfare to reach mainland and Rs. 80,000 to shift an ailing patient to the mainland. This can best be realized how the government is rewarding us for our true patriotism. This all is attributed to sheer ignorance or to some extent innocence of our leaders who by default are taken for granted by the government.

As we all know that Tourism is the only industry to which Ladakh relies on its socio-economic up-liftman and that is limited for a shorter duration. The tourism has increased tremendously since 1974 (547 tourists) to   1, 78,000 (tourists) in 2012. In recent decades, Ladakh is fetching huge foreign exchange through the tourism industry. But the tourism industry can never alone be a source of sustainable livelihoods and holistic development of all sections of the society. Ladakh region has remained vulnerable on all fronts owing to its vicinity to disturbed borders. In 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 tourists got declined suddenly to the tune of 12,344, 18055, 19,6,99 and 8079 respectively. So which is the most viable sector to achieve the economic sustainability in the twin districts of Kargil and Leh, is the question which strikes our minds quite often. The most feasible and reliable option thus available is the agricultural sector but it further requires some infrastructural and institutional strengthening. First and foremost is to look for the shortest surface route to deliver the agricultural products in the market, and, second is to promote the diversification of the crops. The successful implementation of these two can bring a significant change in crop production thus improving the living standards of the community. The diversification of agricultural crops will also minimize the gap between the haves and have not. We must learn a lesson from our fellow brothers and sisters of Lahul and Spiti sharing a geo-climatic similarity with Ladakh.  The people of Lahul and Spiti changed their agricultural system from traditional crops (barley, wheat and potato) to diversified crops (peas and apples). Don’t forget that Lahuli tribe is the richest tribe in Asia not because of tourism or industry but because of their land use planning and agricultural innovations.  The paradigm which is adopted by Lahul and Spiti, the same can best be implemented in our region too. It is beyond my understanding that why the government of Jammu and Kashmir and local government has not learnt a lesson from the adjoining Himachal Pradesh.

Education is the third utmost issue on which our people seem frustrated and seeking improvement since long. Education is the engine of development in any area and progress of any region exclusively depends upon it. The people have lost faith in almost entire government run educational institutions in Ladakh. Public-Private Partnership kind of education model can bring upon the improvement of government run educational institutions. Because of the present system of education, the people are compelled to send their wards outside Ladakh. This system has brought negative effect and impact on our economy as well as cultural identity, psychology and behavior. It is strange to know that more than 8000 to 10,000 students are studying in different educational institutions in different cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu, Dehradun, Shimla, and Dalhousie etc. On the name of education, we are draining our financial resources approximately at the tune of 45 to 50 crore rupees per annum. I think there is a lot of scope for improvement of the education system in Ladakh by the effective intervention of local governance body (LAHDC, Leh and Kargil). The state of Jammu and Kashmir is having nine independent universities but unfortunately, the Ladakh region does not have even a single university. Again a big question mark is on our leadership. A university also acts as a growth pole in any region. The youth of Ladakh is seeking an answer, why the government has failed to open an independent university in Ladakh till date? Two central universities one each in Jammu and Kashmir have been established quite recently by the union government.   It is pertinent to mention that prior to the sanction of the two central Universities, both the divisions already had seven universities (3 in Kashmir and 4 in Jammu). What was the need to have two more, and, why Ladakh once again was deprived of this share. It is pressing demand of Ladakh to have an independent University of its own at the earliest possible.  The youth of Ladakh is asking the government for the reasons for this step-motherly treatment, why these discriminations and how long it will continue? Don’t forget that Ladakhis have always demanded within the provisions of the Indian constitution. The people of Ladakh, the history speaks have never reacted and behaved like northeastern states and Kashmiri people. Is this the reward we are getting of our true nationalism or we are being taken-for-granted. We need the answer.

The author is an Assistant Professor at University of Jammu.