…an administrative necessity or a political compulsion?
Last week the gubernatorial administration in J&K state decided on providing a separate administrative and revenue division for Ladakh. The decision meant separating Leh and Kargil districts from administrative control of Kashmir division and combining the two in Ladakh division. The decision taken in extreme haste was followed swiftly by appointing a divisional commissioner. The reaction it evoked across the length and breadth of the state clearly indicates lack of adequate preparation before announcing the decision. The stakeholders were not taken on board, especially the leadership of Kargil. Moreover, the decision smelt of partisanship, it was warmly received in Leh, while Kargil expressed grave reservations.
Gubernatorial administrations exist as and when there is a constitutional vacuum resulting from an elected government eclipsing from the political scene, whatever the reason. Governor’s rule in J&K was imposed on June the 19th 1918 under section 92 of J&K constitution, the reason being BJP/PDP coalition coming apart. BJP strategy in withdrawing support to PDP became clear in subsequent months. It was designed to implement BJP agenda through centrally sponsored gubernatorial administration. On December 20th 2018 President’s rule was imposed under article 356, extending Governor’s prerogative to act as he may. While as there is no constitutional bar to gubernatorial administration taking any decision, as per democratic norm and convention, it may desist from taking broad policy decisions with far reaching consequences. Such a norm is self-explanatory. Gubernatorial administrations lack the needed political feedback for weighing pros and cons of such a decision. To respect the norm could be taken as imperative in situations, where there is no urgency in arriving at the decision. It is in taking such a purview that Governor’s decision of according divisional status to Ladakh could be questioned? In fact, a series of decisions have been taken by the Governor, with long term consequences. The decision on Rattle power project could be quoted as another example. It is supposed to be taken over by NHPC on a 51:49 percent partnership basis with SPDC, in spite of NHPC giving a rough deal to the state over decades of running J&K power projects.
Ladakh district of yester-years encompassing Leh and Kargil was an administrative unit of Kashmir division for long years. Kashmir continued to be the divisional headquarter, when Leh and Kargil were designed as separate districts. Moreover, there were two separate autonomous hill councils based in Leh and Kargil, a distinction enjoyed in preference to other backward districts of the J&K state. Being largely armed to fashion their own affairs by elected councils, where on earth was the urgency to create Leh based separate division? It might be added, it could be conceived as a long-term need, albeit by taking all stakeholders on board. As it stands, it has hit a roadblock with leadership in Kargil up in arms, supported widely by the populace in the district. After years of lying low, Kargil has developed a voice in recent years. In the past, across Zojila pass the concerns expressed in Leh dominated the scene, while Kargil remained almost voiceless. Leh voice with narrative of two and a half districts of Jammu was conceived and construed as a parallel narrative to drown the dominant sentiment of overwhelming majority of the state. The dominant sentiment craved for a peaceful permanent settlement of ‘K’ dispute, while parallel narratives were carved to support the status quo.
In the developmental indices noted over decades, minority interests have ruled roost, while majoritarian interests have been derailed. The developmental graph read on comparative basis could be taken as a witness. Across Zojila, Leh and Kargil stand wide apart in infrastructural development, educational progress and health care. Kargil deserves a university much more than Leh, given its lower educational status. However, recently Leh was granted a University, leaving Kargil high and dry. The same is true of Chenab Basin and Pir Panchal. Chenab Basin and Pir Panchal form part of Jammu division, however they stand quite low compared to some other Jammu districts. As and when, it comes to setting-up IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, Chenab Basin and Pir Panchal are overlooked. Being far-flung hilly areas difficult to access, they ought to have the first call on technological and management institutes, as well as tertiary health care. What holds good for Jammu division should hold good for Kashmir division too. Infrastructural development, as well as social welfare growth should be evenly spread. District Kupwara could be made a test case for inclusive, even-handed development. The available data of district developmental indices on three major indexes of Agricultural Development Index (ADI), Social Development Index (SDI) and Economic Welfare Index (EWI) could be made a basis for even-handed growth, as suggested by the civil society.
J&K state has for long been a witness to developmental strategies being designed to shape parallel narratives to undermine the majoritarian view. The reaction in Kargil, Chenab Basin and Pir Panchal to the decision taken by Governor with his team of advisers is proof enough that strategy designed is facing resentment and resistance. Chenab Basin and Pir Panchal deserve divisional status, as much as Leh, and, like Leh and Kargil, an autonomous hill council too. And, Kargil in Ladakh division deserves an equal weightage, as far as placing divisional headquarters in concerned. Short of it, voices from Kargil prefer to stay with Kashmir division. The gubernatorial administration would do well not to get into decisions which favour certain political quarters to the detriment of majoritarian concerns. It may stop forthwith, as it is adding to the woes of the state—enough is enough!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]