J&K & Ladakh: Future Uncertain?

This is a blog by Bhamini.

After the abrogation of Article 370, and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories the region will witness a lot of changes.  The districts of Kargil and Leh form Ladakh and the rest make up the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The number of states in the country has become 28 now and the number of union territories has increased to 9.

Ever since the scrapping of Article 370, people are struggling to come to terms with the new reality—where their identity and the demographic composition of the state is no longer shielded by law. People have suddenly been transported to a pre-communication era. There is now a sense of paranoia about what might be in store.

Changes after Scrapping Article 370

  • Creation of two new union territories, Ladakh and J&K.
  • Ladakh will be directly governed by the Union Home Ministry through a Lieutenant-Governor.
  • Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will have a common high court.
  • For recruitment of officers, Ladakh will come under the ambit of the Union Public Service Commission.
  • The government employees of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, will start getting salaries and other benefits as per the recommendations of the seventh Pay Commission.
  • The welfare schemes of the Centre will be applicable to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • The state police will come under direct control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Both now come under the ambit of Right to Information and Right to Education Acts.
  • Scrutiny of government expenditure will be done by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
  • There will be right to property for all.

Uncertainties in Ladakh

 The decision to bifurcate J&K received mixed reactions in the new union territory of Ladakh, which comprises two districts – Kargil and Leh.

In Leh, the decision has been welcomed as the people had been demanding that Ladakh be administered by the Centre since 1949. On the other hand, Muslim majority Kargil had never wished to be separated from J&K.

The two towns are largely divided in their response but what unites them is anxiety about the future of the Himalayan region.

Mobile Internet has been cut off in Kargil, “law and order” being the stated reason. Phone and internet services in Leh are active, but the communication closure in the rest of Jammu and Kashmir has affected the citizens.

As per shopkeepers, transporters have started demanding double rates to bring products from Srinagar, fearing trouble.

Landline connectivity has still not been restored.

Future Uncertain?

Ladakh residents fear that outsiders may buy land and take away their jobs which were earlier kept for the locals. Being an isolated region, it had already been facing lot of employment issues (according to the 2011 Census, the percentage of non-workers in Leh and Kargil districts are 43.76% and 63.16%, respectively). In Leh, though happy, people want to know if their land and employment opportunities will be protected.

There are dangers of erosion of the ethnic identity of the closed community, and the dangers of ecological imbalance that tourists have been bringing along with them already. There is already a huge scarcity of water.

Young women are scared if Leh will be as safe as it was earlier after influx of outsiders, as crimes against women are rare in the region.

Conclusion

The emphasis must be to promote pluralism in the State so that all communities can live together as they did before Pakistani trained militants forced Kashmiri Pandits to leave. Intra-Kashmiri dialogue, exchange programs of students, writers, artists to offer their strengths in all the regions will definitely help in reconnecting and reintegrating hearts and minds of the people. The opening up of the economy is expected to promote growth of industry and jobs and reduce the existing dependence on agriculture, tourism and handicrafts. For investments to come and job opportunities to grow the law and order situation should be conducive. Kashmiris and the rest of India are waiting to see when or if the situation improves.

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Colonel M.M Nehru

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