House May Nix Ladakh's UT Demand: Leh Council

31 December 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arteev Sharma

Jammu: The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, which governs the district politically, apprehends that the J&K Legislative Assembly might be a major stumbling block in granting the Union Territory (UT) status to Ladakh even if the Centre agrees to the 'most genuine' demand of the region. 'Last week, we met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central leadership of the BJP. They expressed their desire to fulfil the long-cherished dream of Ladakhi people but it is not going to be an easy task as the state Legislative Assembly has to agree to our genuine demand. Given the complexity of the issue, every person in Ladakh knows that it is not going to be easy to achieve this goal,' said Sonam Dawa Lonpo, Chief Executive Councillor (CEC) of LAHDC, Leh, in an interview with The Tribune. At the time of the LAHDC polls, the BJP and the RSS had promised UT status to Ladakh. The ruling PDP-BJP combine has 59 members (including two nominated) in the 89-member Legislative Assembly. They have more than two-thirds majority to pass the Bill to grant UT status to Ladakh. Sources say the BJP is now, however, backtracking from the promise citing the Kashmir-centric PDP as a stumbling block. It may be pointed out here that two MLAs of the Congress from the Ladakh region also support the demand. The LAHDC hopes that the Centre can help in the matter despite the fact that neither Parliament nor the Central government can take a unilateral decision in this regard. The state has its own Constitution and its legislature alone can decide on constitutional matters. 'People of Ladakh are however relieved that a national party (BJP) has accepted that their demand is genuine and showed commitment towards fulfilling it in the near future. We don't know how much time they (Centre) will take to accept our demand but we are hopeful that the Central government, led by Narendra Modi, will definitely accept it. In the past 60 years, no other government has shown such concern for Ladakh,' Dawa said. On December 21, a high-level delegation from Leh comprising MP Thupstan Chhewang and councillors, had met the Prime Minister and BJP national president Amit Shah seeking their intervention in resolving all outstanding issues, including review of the Council Act and grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh. Subsidised travel soon The CEC while expressing concern over poor road and air connectivity to Ladakh said the Prime Minister and Civil Aviation Minister had promised better road connectivity and increase in flights to Leh so that the people didn't face difficulties.'We have been told that Air India will resume its daily service on Leh-Delhi section from January 11 while more airline companies will provide services to Ladakh from next year. We have also been told that air ticket rates will be slashed and subsidised in 2016,' Dawa said. Kailash yatra The CEC said the Prime Minister was keen on opening of Kailash Mansarovar road via Demchok for pilgrims. He has told us that India and China would soon come out with a solution so that pilgrims can undertake Kailash Mansarovar yatra via Ladakh. In June, China had allowed the first batch of Indian pilgrims undertaking the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra in Tibet via Nathu La.