EVEN as Ladakh continues to reel in the aftermath of the August 6 cloudburst that officially killed 233 people, though the state government at Srinagar has issued the notification for the elections to Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and announced the poll date. But the state government’s decision has drawn a flak with representatives of various organisations terming it a mindless decision.
While the Council’s term does come to an end on October 16, the state government has powers to extend its term in extraordinary circumstances. And an irritated Chief Executive Councillor, Cherring Dorje, is convinced that Srinagar did not apply its mind before notifying the election.
The notification has been followed by restrictions under the model code of conduct and his own powers to provide relief to people have been severely curtailed. Promises for relief and rehabilitation have dried up “at a time when victims require all kinds of support,” says unhappy Dorje. This is no time to launch an election campaign, he points out and adds that his party, Ladakh Union territory Front, has been opposed to holding the election at this time.
The election is farthest from the mind of the victims, who seem now resigned to spending the winter in tents. Not a single house has been re-built so far, points out Tashi Dawa, homeless and living in a tent at the Solar Valley relief camp. There is no way the administration can build 1,200 houses in the next two months, he says and shrugs.
People elect 26 councillors every five years to the Council, which has four nominated members.
Instead of taking measures for their rehabilitation the government has announced the poll scheduled for LAHDC, Leh just to give the political advantage to Congress Party which is the alliance partner of Omar Abdullah led government.
Challenging the Government decision various social leaders said that yet the people have not recovered from the last month’s cloudburst tragedy and over 1000 people who have been rendered shelterless are still in 300 tents at Leh. These leaders are of the opinion that the elections to the Council could have been deferred for the time being as there was a provision in the Act and previously the elections to Kargil Hill Development Council were also deferred by one year. The same rule could have been applied in case of LAHDC, Leh, they added.
Criticising the government decision they said that the Congress was trying to take the political mileage of providing Rs 125 crore for the rehabilitation of the cloudburst victims by the Centre so the elections to the Council were announced hurriedly by the government to give advantage to the party at hustings.
Dr Anil Kumar, a social activist who is engaged in rehabilitation of cloud burst victims and is presently camping in Leh said when there was no hurry in announcing the elections for Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) where the situation is totally conducive for holding of poll what compulsion was before the government to announce the elections to LAHDC, Leh when the people in this hilly belt are totally disturbed after the last month’s tragedy. The government could have waited for more time and instead fully concentrated on the rehabilitation of the victims, he said, adding the elections could have been announced after the March next year.
Terming the decision as childish a social activist Tashi Dolma said instead of taking steps for the rehabilitation of the disaster victims, the Government has announced the elections just to take the political benefit of the package given to the victims. This is totally cheapness on the part of the Congress Party, she added.
She said the tragedy has befallen Leh and people are worried as winter is approaching which it will add to their agony further but the government is not worried to provide shelter to the hapless people. Dolma said lot needs to be done for the rehabilitation of the people and in case the shelters were not constructed for over 1000 people putting up in tents at present they will be put to many hardships and miseries due to approaching winter.
She said the roads and lanes in Leh are in shambles as they were washed away by the flash floods during the cloudburst and the government should have taken steps in constructing the same first instead of announcing the elections.
Moreover, the agriculture produce was also damaged and over 1300 cattle perished in the cloudburst. The people have yet to recover from the shock, said Thundop working as a community worker with a social organisation in Leh. He said how the shell shocked people can take part in the elections scheduled to be held in first week of October.
Supporting the views of Dr Anil he said the government could have easily deferred the elections for the time being and utilised its all resources for the rehabilitation of the victims but this has not been done and under the pressure of a political party which wanted to take the advantage of the Central package it announced the elections to LAHDC, he added.