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Ladakh UT status: ‘Most Leh people happy; many confused, uncertain’

Press Trust of India

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Leh, Sept 2: Chewang Dolma, who retired as a matron from a government hospital here, had joined a crowd of jubilant people in the streets of Leh on the day the Centre announced a Union territory status for Ladakh.

“People were dancing in the streets, and rejoicing in markets. Ladakhis had been struggling for over 70 years to see this day,” Dolma said. “We were emotionally overwhelmed. I am very happy that now we will finally be a UT.”

Dolma, 68, a fourth-generation Ladakhi, earlier worked at the Sonam Nurboo Memorial (SNM) Hospital and now runs Lyon Hotel at Changspa in downtown Leh, a hub of tourists.

 

Emotions expressed by people like Dolma is ostensibly a dominant feeling in Leh district of Ladakh, evidenced in streets and market places.

In Leh”s main market, a beautiful pedestrianised space, huge cloth banners have been displayed, bearing messages like: “Thank you Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making Ladakh a UT” and “Ladakh celebrates its 1st Independence Day”.

A prominent roundabout in streets carries a banner put up by activists that reads: “Ladakh freed from Kashmir”.

A separate Union territory has been a long-standing demand of locals, many of who have alleged that the Ladakh region had been neglected by leaders of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many local residents feel the region will see growth and prosperity now as Ladakh will take charge of its destiny in its own hands.

The Centre had on August 5 scrapped Jammu and Kashmir”s special status by abrogating provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — that will officially come into effect on October 31.

A resident of Chemday village, who did not wish to be identified, said she studied at a university in Jammu, but had had to go to Srinagar for various paperwork.

“And, being Ladakhis, we had to face a lot of problem as, not only the long distance for travel, but we were expected to grease palms of many government staff to get our work done,” she said. “I am very happy, we are separate entity now.”

However, not everyone is swept by the wave of the initial euphoria and many Ladakhi people — young and old, living in Leh town or villages in the district — are feeling apprehensive about the future that lies ahead.

Stanzin Jordan, 28, a Leh-based entrepreneur said he was not very excited by all the buzz about the UT status.

“Actually, I feel very confused, as to what will happen to Ladakh after the UT status,” Jordan, who graduated in August from the year-long Naropa Fellowship, said.

“Ladakh”s ecology is very fragile and infrastructure and other projects are now expected to be brought in her,” he said. “I can”t tell how much jobs will be created for locals, and a bit concerned about the impact of new set-up on the existing ecology and our own local culture.”

Ladakh indeed has a very distinctive culture, and in Leh town, almost all buildings, hotels and houses, display the unique Ladakhi design in wood in their facade.

The demand for a UT status has been a long-drawn struggle, and one of the first Ladakhis to raise the issue was Buddhist scholar and politician Bakula Rinpoche, after whom the Leh airport is named.

Asked about the future of Ladakh post the UT status, Buddhist leader His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche said: “People are excited, but, we don”t know what will happen after the UT status comes.”

“Our worry is about our culture, and our culture should not be destroyed because of the ramifications of this UT status,” Rinpoche told .

Hinting at urban issues arising due to increase in population, he said: “Our Ladakh should not become more dirty or polluted after the UT status now. We must preserve our Himalayan region as we grow ahead.”

In other areas of Buddhist-dominated Leh district, too, people are largely happy about the UT status, with some confused or muted in their response, but in Muslim-dominated Kargil district of Ladakh, a section of citizens have been protesting the decision.

Sonam Chuskit, 23, who is pursuing a master”s degree in political science through a long-distance programme from Jammu, is sceptical about the decision to make Ladakh a Union territory.

A resident of Liktsay village, about 90-minute ride from Leh town and situated at an altitude of above 11,000 ft, Chuskit points to the pristine mountains and river streams near her house, which villagers use for household work.

“UT status would mean more infrastructure projects, more pressure on ecology, over-population in this fragile region. I am worried,” she said.

The woman also pointed out that overtourism in pristine areas like the Pangong Lake has already begun to damage the ecology as many tourists leave plastic and other trash behind.

“I hope that after UT status, my region gets good educational institutions and hospitals so that we won”t have to seek higher education and healthcare elsewhere, but care should be taken to not harm the environment,” said Chuskit, who wants to become a teacher.

In the same village, Kalzang Chosdin, 29, said: “We are poor people just trying to live our lives without compromising the nature.”

“UT or no UT, our lives will be the same,” Chosdin said as she carried a sack of grass on her shoulders and walked towards the horizon.


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Kashmir

Govt committed to revive pristine glory of water bodies: Div Com

Monitor News Bureau

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SRINAGAR, SEPTEMBER 19: Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, today said that government is committed to revive the pristine glory of water bodies in Kashmir valley.

The Divisional Commissioner said this while taking stock of revival measures for Wular Lake, Hokersar and Kreentchoo-Chandhara wet lands at a meeting here.

He directed WUCMA to conduct a survey with Wildlife and Revenue authorities in peripheral areas of the Wular Lake for identification of encroached spots.

For Hokersar and Kreentchoo-Chandhara wet lands, Deputy Commissioners of Srinagar, Budgam and Pulwama districts were directed to prepare a complete demarcation and encroachment report of the wetlands within 20 days.

It was said that concerned Deputy Commissioners will conduct an outer tour of the water bodies along with officers, Panchayats and Municipal Committees and propose a separate land fill site for dumping solid waste on scientific lines.

The Divisional Commissioner directed Deputy Commissioners to involve local Panchayats for safeguarding and conservation of water bodies.

Additional Commissioner Kashmir, Chief Wildlife Warden, Additional Deputy Commissioner Srinagar and other concerned officers were present in the meeting where as Deputy Commissioners of Bandipora, Budgam and Pulwama participated in the meeting through video conferencing.

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Kashmir

Govt inaugurates 15 power projects in Jammu & Kashmir

Monitor News Bureau

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Union Power Minister RK Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik have jointly inaugurated 15 power projects and laid the foundation stone for 20 others worth 10,000 crore rupees in the state. Addressing a function in Srinagar, Power Minister said, the government is working to ensure 24 hours electricity supply to all the citizens of the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. He said, the power supply in this winter will be much better than in the past.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Satya Pal Malik said  development works in Jammu and Kashmir will prompt People of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to revolt against Islamabad and join India.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Jitendra Singh has said that the transition of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to Union Territories will be smooth. He said, any arrangement or mechanism which evolves will be in the best interest of all the stakeholders. Dr Jitendra Singh was addressing the Annual Conference of Chief Secretaries and Principal Secretaries of all States in New Delhi yesterday.

 
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Kashmir

How can PSA be slapped against Farooq Abdullah: Hasnain Masoodi

Agencies

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How can PSA or Public Safety Act be slapped against National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah who has been in public life for 50 years, someone who has been an MP, and a three time Chief Minister, asks National Conference MP Justice Hasnain Masoodi in an interview with IANS.

“Dr Abdullah has put forth the Kashmir case for India before the international fora. Can he be a risk to the public order and security of the state? Nobody will agree to this,” Justice Masoodi said.

Justice Hasnain Masoodi and his fellow National Conference MP Akbar Lone, who held a meeting with Dr Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah last week said that Farooq Abdullah is not keeping good health, while Omar Abdullah is in good spirits.

“Dr Farooq Abdullah has some health issues. On August 3, there were some concerns about his health. His health may not be worse as compared to the first week of August, but he is not keeping good health. Omar Abdullah is in good spirits,” Justice Hasnain Masoodi said.

Justice Hasnain Masoodi said that the revocation of Article 370 is neither in favour of the state nor the country.

“The scrapping of this Article will widen the gulf between Kashmir and the rest of the country,” Masoodi said.

He said there has been no significant improvement in the situation in Kashmir since August 5, when the article was scrapped and this is drawing international attention.

“Things are the same in Kashmir, though some public transport is plying, mobile phone service continue to remain blocked. There is an information blockade. Landlines have been opened up, but because of the shift to the digital world, most people have disconnected their landlines,” Justice Masoodi said.

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