Jammu: The Union Territory of Ladakh is anticipating tangible improvement in quality of livelihood means and boom in sustainable border tourism with the development of infrastructure, and reverse migration in villages under Vibrant Villages Programme.
Recently the centrally-sponsored Vibrant Villages Programme had been approved for the financial years 2022-23 to 2025-26 with the financial allocation of Rs 4800 crore for the Union Territory of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. Of total allocated funds, Rs 2500 crore will be used for road development.
The centrally-sponsored programme aims to provide mobile, internet connectivity, all weather road connectivity, clean drinking water, and uninterrupted electricity supply using renewable solar, wind energy, besides encouraging tourism.
Councillor Chushul constituency and former Executive Councillor (Deputy Minister Status), Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh in Ladakh Union Territory, Konchok Stanzin told Greater Kashmir, "Chushul constituency comprising four panchayats viz., Maan Pangong A, Maan Pangong B, Kargyam and Chushul requires proper developmental plans."
He said, "We have submitted some (developmental) projects and the government has also taken up initiative for infrastructural development. Under the Vibrant Villages Programme, the government is preparing to increase livelihood, tourism, health, and education infrastructure.
“As far as the resettlement project for Changthang, a package of Rs 245 Cr is being sought. We have been pursuing it since 2015. It was sanctioned to the Ladakh UT in 2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs and gradually, it is being implemented by the Sheep and Animal Husbandry Department. Besides, sports infrastructure is also being developed.”
He said, “We have also requested the government to enhance the project because we need more things as the budget seems insufficient to meet the requirement on the ground as a package. The Vibrant Villages Programme is a package not a regular scheme. Therefore, BADP should not be stopped with a motive to continue development activities in border villages. We have not received benefits of this scheme since 2019.”
However, the government has also clarified that the new centrally sponsored Vibrant Villages Programme scheme will not overlap with the existing scheme of BADP.
IN SEARCH OF ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOOD
Referring to the migration in border villages, he said, “The residents have not migrated from their villages. But the younger generation does not want to stay in their villages and they move to alternative places for livelihood like Leh or other places.”
“The people in Eastern Ladakh are mostly dependent upon livestock rearing. But the population of livestock has been reducing very fast. Therefore, the people are going for alternative income like tourism, GREF and BRO,” he said, claiming that the economic issues created a situation due to which the young generation developed detachment.
To encourage tourism and to stop migration from villages in Ladakh, he said that border areas like Pangong, where the tourism sector generated huge potential for the villagers who would earn their livelihood while continuing to live in their respective villages, should be given focus.
PLOTS ALLOTMENT TO REVERSE MIGRATION
“We have witnessed reverse migration. In 2018 we had taken initiative with the help of Hill Development Council of Ladakh by providing over 200 plots to families i.e., 10 marla of the piece of land to families living in the surrounding area of Pangong,” he said. "With growing tourism potential in the villages thus offering good means of livelihood, this step has reversed the migration (youth)."
"Man Pangong - a village had 70 households and now this number has gone up to 90 after distribution of plots at Spangmik and boom in tourism potential around Pangong. Similarly, Pangong had 90 households, but now 20 households have been added due to reverse migration as a result the total number of households has gone up to 110 (Man Pangong-B) following the distribution of plots," he said.
He said that under the Vibrant Villages Programme, the village specific initiative to increase sustainable village economy should be taken.
He suggested that the government should also adopt the same policy of Ladakh Hill Development Council and take initiative to counter the migration by allotting plots to the people of Ladakh in their respective places as this step had been able to reverse migration.
He said that he had requested the government to give incentives and make live stocks mandatory and give salary and honorarium to the shepherd who keeps these live stocks in the border villages of Ladakh.
“These shepherds play an important role in the border areas. We consider them as the second line of the defence. When the people get a secured source of income, they will prefer to stay in their respective villages,” he said.
BORDER TOURISM POTENTIAL, PASHMINA, YAK WOOL, LEATHER
He informs that the Chushul revenue village has border tourism potential, and Kargyam revenue village has nomadic tourism potential. So it requires livestock based initiatives like dairy products, pashmina, yak-wool, sheep wool and leather products.
“Tourists should be allowed up to Hot Springs, North Pangong and night stay at Chushul, Phobrang, Kargyam and Hanle to strengthen the economy. They should also open more tourist routes and trekking routes,” he said.
PANGONG LAKE MARATHON
He also recalled the recently organized Pangong Tso Lake Marathon in which over 70 athletes (from across the country and abroad) ran on over 21 km long frozen water at the height of 14270 ft on February 20, 2023 to create a world record.
The Pangong lake area has become an important tourism circuit where tourists from foreign countries also visit.
He said that the aim of organizing this event was to promote rural, border and adventure tourism in Ladakh and it was also a strategically important move from the Indian side with the organization of this event on Pangong Lake which is very much close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) dividing China and India.
He said that it was the initiative of Ladakh youth (Adventure Sports Foundation of Ladakh) and Ladakh Hill Development funded the event.