Ladakh: A deeply insecure Union Territory

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News: After the passing of the Reorganization Act, Ladakh has little autonomy or participatory democracy.

How did the administration work before the Reorganisation Act of 2019?

Before the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 was passed, Ladakh enjoyed a classical three-tier administrative system.

Autonomous Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil : It had the powers over land in Ladakh

Bicameral legislative system: It gave Ladakh autonomy and participatory democracy. It also helped to secure the interests of the tribal majority population of Ladakh.

Public Service Commission: Gazetted officers were recruited through the State Public Service Commission (PSC). While the District Service Selection Board made recruitments at the district level.

What is the present situation?

Presently, there is no PSC in Ladakh and the Hill Councils’ power to make recruitments at the district level has also been affected by the Lieutenant Governor (LG)’s presence. The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs had recommended in 2019 that Ladakh be declared a tribal area but no action on it yet.

The reorganization Act has taken away participatory democracy from Ladakh. It took away 6 seats of the Members of Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council and wakening the functioning of the Hill Councils. The increase in presence of bureaucratic power is visible there.

What is the problem with the working of the LG office?

It has followed a corporate model of working with the majority of the officers are of the Hill Councils and the rest have been recruited through outsourcing agencies. The officers are overworked and fail to address the issues arising due to the transition from State to UT.

There is limited actual engagement with the people on the ground. So, the LG’s office has not been able to harmonize with the people of Ladakh.

People of Ladakh are of the opinion that the UT without a legislature is similar to disenfranchisement. This resulted in Apex Body Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, two separate groups having differing agendas, now having a common demand of Statehood. They also seek other constitutional safeguards given to the Northeast.

Must read: Explained: What is the Sixth Schedule, and can Ladakh be included under it?

Source: This post is based on the article “A deeply insecure Union Territory” published in The Hindu on 22nd December 2021.

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