Friday, June 2

HPC fails to breakthrough, Centre mulls to empower hill councils to provide safeguards to Ladakh


LEH: With its High Powered Committee failing to make any breakthrough with the protesting Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), the Centre government is now mulling to grant enhanced powers to the existing hill councils in Ladakh, including the safeguards on the land, culture, language, environment, and heritage, as demanded by the protesting bodies.

This move would make two kills with one shot: Empower the hill councils and bring safeguards to allay the apprehensions of the people of Ladakh, even as it makes clear that the Centre is not budging from its stance of not including Ladakh into the sixth schedule of the constitution.


The LAB and KDA have been demanding Sixth Schedule status, Statehood, two Parliamentary seats and employment opportunities for Ladakh, leading to protests across Ladakh, and Jammu and New Delhi over the last couple of years.

The LAB and KDA, it may be mentioned, are amalgam of civil society from both the districts of Ladakh, and has strong support from political and religious groups, besides the business communities there. They were formed after the people of Ladakh expressed their disappointment for not getting the safeguards promised by New Delhi and concerns over their jobs, land and fragile climate, after Ladakh was separated from Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 in the year 2019.

The Centre had, in January this year, constituted a high-powered committee headed by Minister of State Nityanand Rai to “ensure protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh. The panel included nine representatives of the LAB and the KDA, but the two bodies rejected it, saying their agenda and representatives were not included.

The union government started fresh negotiations with the leaders of the two bodies in April then, but the LAB and KDA disassociated themselves from the HPC.


Empowering Hill Councils

Even as Ladakh fails to build a consensus on its demand for constitutional safeguards for the region, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils have been waiting for their empowerment.

The local hill councils, one each in Leh and Kargil, are among the most powerful councils in the country but after the region was made a separate union territory after the reorganisation of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, there have been demands from various quarters to strengthen the LAHDC Act in the context of the new identity of Ladakh

In March this year, Leh council chief Tashi Gyalson camped in New Delhi for four days, to pitch for strengthening the LAHDC Act.

The LAHDC Act was last amended in 2018, and continued even under the Union Territory. While the current LAHDC Act makes the Councils the most powerful councils in the country, CEC Gylason has in the past highlighted that some additional steps are needed to strengthen the LAHDC to provide adequate scope to fulfil the development aspirations of people of Ladakh, particularly after Ladakh was made a union territory.

‘Constitutional safeguards for Ladakh among demands discussed with Nadda’

In this regard, Gyalson held back to back meetings with Union Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah, his deputy Nityanand Rai, union minister Dr Jitendra Singh, BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda.

Gyalson, who was accompanied by the Ladakh BJP leadership, had sought empowerment of the hill council, while also demanding “constitutional safeguards for the protection of land, employment, culture, environment and trade, according to the existing, and extent of the provisions of the Constitution, as per the aspiration of people of Ladakh,” but refraining from mentioned sixth schedule in any way.

One Shot, Two Aims

With a consensus not in sight, the union government is now mulling to make two kills with one shot. It is mulling to amend the LAHDC Act and empower the Hill Development Councils in Leh and Kargil, and thus also ensuring safeguards for land, environment, cultural, language and heritage etc.

“The amendment of the LAHDC Act has been awaiting Centre’s approval since long. In March, there were extensive discussions on the same. With the talks with KDA and LBA failing even before starting off, the MHA is now actively considering the empowerment of the hill councils,” said an official.

The MHA is not yet done with its HPC, but with both KDA and LBA not coming forward to talk, it can no longer keep the people of Ladakh in a state of uncertainty, said the official.

“The amendment in the LAHDC Act would empower the hill councils with enhanced financial and administrative powers to lead the developmental journey of Ladakh. At the same time, this will empower the hill councils to devise adequate safeguards for the protection of land, environment, culture, language, and heritage,” the official informed Indus Dispatch.

It is to be mentioned that LAHDC Leh in December last year passed a resolution demanding constitutional safeguards for protection of land, employment, culture, environment and trade, besides granting constitutional legality to the Council.













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