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  • Context (TH I IE): In recent times, Ladakh has seen significant protests regarding statehood and preserving its identity in the constitution.
  • Apex Body Leh (ABL) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), spearheading the movement, are pursuing five main demands-
    1. Statehood for Ladakh,
    2. Safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution,
    3. Reservation of jobs for the youth of Ladakh, and
    4. Separate parliamentary constituencies for the two parts of the region — Leh and Kargil.
    5. Extended Ladakh’s territorial control up to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and reserved seats for the area.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has set up a high-powered committee to engage with the representatives of the demands from Ladakh.

Origin of the Demand for Separate Region

  • 1989: Violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims; Ladakh Buddhist Council called for a social and economic boycott of Muslims, which was lifted in 1992.
  • 1995: The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) was created.
    • The LAHDC of Leh and Kargil also have limited powers.
  • Religious minorities (Buddhists) in the region had for long supported the demand for UT status, alleging discrimination at the hands of Kashmir-centric parties.
    • Ladakh was represented by four members in the J&K Assembly and two in the Legislative Council
  • 2019: Abrogation of Art 370 and a reorganisation act passed by the Parliament reconstituted Ladakh as a union territory (UT), separate from the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Muslim-majority Kargil wanted to remain a part of the erstwhile State and not join the Buddhist-majority Leh.

Arguments in Favour of Ladakh’s Demand for Inclusion in the 6th Schedule

Ensuring Representation

  • Reconstitution as a UT has led to concerns about the loss of local autonomy and representation in decision-making processes.
  • The LAHDC, that governed the region and enjoyed significant autonomy, has been left with minimal powers.

Lack of Public Participation

  • As part of the J&K, Ladakh had enjoyed special status under Article 370 and Article 35A.
  • No Legislative body: Decision-making has shifted from public participation to bureaucratic processes.

Ladakh’s Fragile Ecosystem

  • Cold deserts, glaciers, and alpine meadows are biodiversity hotspots and serve as habitats for rare and endangered species.
  • Climate activists have flagged concerns regarding mining in the glacial ecology.
  • Industries will bring lakhs of people, and the fragile ecosystem cannot support so many people.

Sensitive Borders

  • The delicate situation in Ladakh is compounded by its borders with both China and Pakistan.
  • This necessitates strategic infrastructure development supported by the local community.

Preservation of Cultural Identity

  • Nearly 80% of Ladakh’s total population of 2.74 lakh are tribals
  • Sixth Schedule will provide legal safeguards to Ladakh’s unique tribal cultural heritage and traditional customs.

Performance of Socio-Economic Development

  • The administration has been inefficient in terms of generating employment opportunities.
  • The absence of a public service commission and a Lack of a comprehensive job policy has created a sense of anger among the youths.
    • The Sixth Schedule will facilitate the formulation of locally relevant development initiatives, leading to improved socio-economic outcomes.
  • A government survey pointed out that 26.5% of graduates in Ladakh are unemployed.

Strengthening of Democratic Institutions

  • The establishment of autonomous councils would strengthen democratic institutions at the grassroots level.

Arguments against the Inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule?

  • The MHA has highlighted potential challenges (Constitutional Amendment) in amending the IC to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule.
  • MoHA: The IC explicitly reserves the Sixth Schedule for the Northeast region, while tribal areas in other parts of the country are covered under the Fifth Schedule.
  • The Fifth Schedule of the IC deals with the administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes in any state except the four states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

Potential Delays in Decision-Making

  • It could add complexity to the region’s governance structure, potentially leading to administrative challenges and delays in decision-making processes.

Inclusion Already Under Progress

  • The GOI informed that the objective for inclusion of the tribal population under the sixth schedule is to ensure their overall socio-economic development.
  • The UT administration has already been taking care of this, and sufficient funds are being provided to Ladakh to meet its overall developmental requirements.

Increased Reservations

  • The Ladakh administration recently increased the reservation for the STs in direct recruitment from 10% to 45%.

Hindrance in Economic Development

  • Being a UT allows for focused investment in infrastructure development in Ladakh, including roads, airstrips, and communication networks.
  • Inclusion in the Sixth Schedule could hinder Ladakh’s economic development by imposing restrictions on land use, resource exploitation, and investment opportunities.

Clear Chain of Command

  • Under the GOI, there is a transparent chain of command for security operations in the region.
    • This leads to effective coordination between the military, paramilitary forces, and local administration in responding to Chinese incursions.

What is the Sixth Schedule?

  • Article 244: It provides for the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) that have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.
  • Current Status: It contains special provisions for the tribal areas in the four north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • Autonomous Districts: The tribal areas have been constituted as autonomous districts. The governor is empowered to organise and reorganise the autonomous districts.
  • District Councils: A district council consists of 30 members, of whom the Governor nominates four, and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise.
  • Regional Councils: If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions.
    • Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.
  • Powers of the Council:
    1. The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction.
    2. They can make laws on some issues like land, forests, canal water, village administration, the inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, etc.
      • All such laws require the permission of the Governor.
    3. It can constitute village councils or courts for the trial of suits and cases between the tribes.
      • The governor specifies the jurisdiction of the HCs over these suits and cases.
    4. The district council can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads and so on in the district.
    5. They are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and impose certain specified taxes.

Rationale for Demand of Statehood

  • It would provide Ladakh with a political framework (legislative assembly) to address its specific needs and challenges.
  • It would empower the local population to have a significant say in decision-making processes.
  • Development of a more comprehensive governance structure, enhancing administrative efficiency and responsiveness.

About Ladakh

  • Ladakh is a mountainous region sandwiched between the Karakoram Range in the North and the Himalayan Range in the South.
  • It is composed of two districts-
    1. Leh – It is the 2nd largest district of India.
    2. Kargil – It lies near the Line of Control. Zanskar Range is a part of Kargil.

Map of J&K and Ladakh

History of Ladakh

  • People of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent originally inhabited Ladakh.
  • Valleys included Baltistan, Indus, Nubra, Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti, Aksai Chin and Ngari.
  • Gulab Singh, the Dogra feudatory of the Sikhs, integrated Ladakh into Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Sino-Sikh war: In May 1841, the Qing dynasty of China invaded Ladakh. The Sino-Tibetan army was defeated.
    • The ‘Treaty of Chushul was signed; No further transgressions or interference in the other country’s frontiers.
  • Later, J&K, including Ladakh, was taken from the Sikh empire and placed under British suzerainty.

Post-1947

  • In 1947, Ladakh became a part of the J&K, to be administered from Srinagar.
  • In 1948, Pakistani raiders invaded Ladakh and occupied Kargil and Zanskar, reaching within 30 km of Leh; Indian Reinforcement troops fought back and took control of the region.
  • In 1962, China occupied Aksai Chin and promptly built roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet and the Karakoram Highway, jointly with Pakistan.

Ladakh Jammu & Kashmir map Siachen Glacier Aksai Chin Shaskgam Tract

Importance of Ladakh

Rich in natural resources

  • Ladakh is situated within the upper reaches of the Indus watershed, which in total supports about 1.2 million people in India and about 93 million in the Pakistan province of Punjab.
    • Sustainable management of water resources in Ladakh is essential, not only for the livelihoods of Ladakhis and the ecosystems of Ladakh but for the health of the whole river system.
  • Solar radiation: It is one of the most abundant natural resources in Ladakh, with annual solar radiation exceeding averages for other areas of India with high insulation.

Geothermal potential

  • Surveys have identified a geothermal resource at depths suitable for exploration and development.
  • This could be developed to provide grid-connected power to small settlements and army bases.
    • Puga and Chumathang in Eastern Ladakh are promising geothermal fields in the country.

Tourism industry

  • Popularly known as the Lama Land or Little Tibet, it lies at altitudes ranging between about 9,000- 25,170 feet.
  • From trekking and mountaineering to Buddhist tours of various monasteries, Ladakh has it all.

Important Monastries of Ladakh

  1. Hemis Monastery: It is believed to be the most prominent and wealthiest monastery of Ladakh and is hidden inside a gorge-like formation.
  2. Zangla Monastery: It is Located in the Zangla area of the Kargil region of Ladakh.
  3. Namgyal Tsemo Gompa: This Buddhist monastery in Leh consists of two 15th-century temples.
  4. Shey Monastery And Palace: It is best known for the three-storey statue of Buddha Shakyamuni.
  5. Diskit Monastery: This monastery is considered to be the largest and oldest monastery in Nubra Valley
  6. Alchi Monastery: The largest gompa built by Rinchen Zangpo, a translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan,
  7. Other Monastries: Likir, Thiksey and Spituk Monastery

Provides connectivity

  • The passes of the Ladakh connect some of the significant zones of the world like Central Asia, South Asia, and China
  • Market access: South Asian countries can reach Central Asian markets through this region.

Energy security

  • In future, the oil and gas pipeline from Iran to China can pass through this mountainous corridor.
  • India’s energy needs can also be met by constructing a pipeline from Central Asia via this region.

Geopolitical Significance

  • It is located on the ancient Silk Route, which played a very vital role in the development of culture, religion, philosophy, trade, and commerce in the past.

Geostrategic location

  • The presence of resources is what makes India, China and Pakistan struggle over Ladakh in order to gain control over resources in this region.
    • Pakistan and China are in conflict with India over Siachen and Aksai chin in this region.

New States in India

Various Statehood Demands in India

  • Vidarbha: It comprises the Amravati and Nagpur divisions of eastern Maharashtra.
  • UP into four smaller states: In 2011, then UP CM and BSP chief, Mayawati, passed a resolution in the Assembly to split– Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Paschim Pradesh.
  • Harit Pradesh: It consists of agriculturally dominated districts of Western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Purvanchal: It is region of north-central India, comprising the eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • Bodoland: The Bodos are the largest ethnic and linguistic community in northern Assam.
  • Saurashtra: The movement for a separate Saurashtra state from Gujarat.
  • Gorkhaland: It is a proposed state covering areas inhabited by the ethnic Gorkha (Nepali) people, namely Darjeeling hills and Dooars in the northern part of West Bengal.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 3 of the IC: It Grants Parliament the authority to undertake various actions regarding the formation, alteration, or dissolution of states.
  • Actions include the formation of new states, increase or decrease in state area, alteration of state boundaries, and change of state name.

Conditions under Article 3

  • A bill must be introduced in either house of Parliament only with the prior recommendation of the President.
  • Before recommending the bill, the President must refer it to the concerned state legislature to express its views within a specified period.

Reasons for Demand

  • All these demands are from regions that are poor in spite of being rich in natural resources.
  • Disputes exist regarding the over-sharing and utilisation of natural resources with the mother state.
  • Linguistic and cultural reasons, which were the primary basis for creating new states in the country, have now become secondary in most of these cases.
  • Other factors are:
    1. Competition for local resources.
    2. Government negligence towards certain regions
    3. Improper allocation of the resources,
    4. The economy’s failure to create enough employment opportunities,
    5. Popular mobilisation and the democratic political process,
    6. The sons of the soil sentiments.

Issues Arising due to the creation of New States

  • Different statehoods may lead to the hegemony of the dominant community/ caste over their power structures, leading to the emergence of intra-regional rivalries among the sub-regions.
  • Aggressive regionalism could also develop in such states, leading to the growth of the sons-of-the-soil phenomenon and the consequent intimidation of the migrants.
  • Statehood cannot guarantee rapid economic development of those backward regions that do not have the required material and human resources.
    • Besides, some of the small states may not have the potential for economic viability.
  • There is also the possibility of an increase in interstate water, power and boundary disputes.
  • The division of states would require enormous funds for building new capital and maintaining a large number of governors, chief ministers, ministers, and administrators.
  • The creation of smaller states doesn’t empower already existing institutions like Gram Panchayat, District Collector, etc.
  • Experiments of smaller states show that the mere formation of a smaller state is no guarantee for better development. E.g.
    1. Uttarakhand continues to be at the lower end of the Human Development Index,
    2. Chhattisgarh has witnessed the most significant displacement of tribals and
    3. Jharkhand was mired in corruption and maladministration.
  • The risk of centralisation of powers in the hands of the CM and the CM’s Secretariat would be more significant.
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