Not only J&K but the UPA too discriminate against the minority Buddhists of Ladakh
At the time when China is creating huge infrastructure in border areas, India seems to have taken no lesson even from Kargil war of 1999. During that war the Indian army had to face so many hardships in supplying arms, ammunition and other help to the border posts. It was because of those hardships and the strategic importance the central government decided to build a road connecting Kargil and Zanskar Valley. Work on this road began in 2002, but till now it is hardly 60 per cent complete. The road, however, was to be operationalised by 2007. Nobody in the UPA government is ready to answer for this delay.
Shri Sonam Namgyal, former president of Zanskar Buddhist Association and currently a councillor from Karsha-Stod constituency in Ladakh Area Hill Development Council (LAHDC), along with some Congress workers met the Union Defence Minister AK Antony on March 9 and urged him to get the work on Nimo-Padum-Darcha road, popularly known as Chaddar Road, completed as earliest. The Border Road Organisation (BRO) is building the road.
Ladakh shares two international borders—Pakistan in north and China in north-east. Presently, it has surface connectivity with the rest of the nation only by two roads—National Highway 1D through Kashmir and the other via Manali in Himachal Pradesh. The essential commodities are transported through these roads only to the people of Ladakh and the Army establishment posted there. The National Highway has proved to be non-viable and secure supply road after the Kargil war, since a major portion of the road came on the target of Pakistani shelling and caused lots of destruction to lives and properties during the 1999 war. The second road connecting Ladakh via Manali passes through a high terrain, several high peaks like Baralachala (4670 metres), Taklangla (5303 metres) fall on this road and these passes get snowfall even in summer, which obstructs smooth transportation. Apart from that, this road is in close proximity to Chinese border.
In this situation, the Nimo-Padum-Darcha road was considered to be the only viable and secure alternative road for smooth, secure and easy transportation. In the eventuality of India having to fight a two front war with both China and Pakistan, the absence of a viable and secure alternative road may prove detrimental for the nation, the solution for which lies in the speedy completion of Nimo-Padum Darcha road, the memorandum submitted to AK Antony said.
Mostly the supply to Army as well as civilians is ensured via Manali-Leh road covering a distance of 470 kilometers. The trucks coming from Delhi, Punjab and Haryana take one week to 10 days to reach Leh after driving across these several high peaks with altitudes. Both Manali and Leh being popular destination of tourists, this road is frequently used by tourists as well to visit to and fro. Unfortunately, this road is prone to accidents and has resulted in causing loss to human life and property because of topographical vulnerability.
If the road from Leh to Manali via Zanskar gets completed, it will shorten the distance approximately by 70 km. Secondly it will reduce the risk of accidents because this road is plain and lying at much lower altitude with an average height of 3500 to 4000 metres except Shingkula which has a height of 5100 metres. Moreover the survey for rail link from Manali to Leh can also be conducted from Zanskar for more economical reasons.
Zanskar is a sub division in Kargil district of J&K. It remains cut off for 7 months in a year due to heavy snowfall and is inhabited by mainly the Buddhist minority tribal population. On the other hand the Kargil tehsil is inhabited by mostly Shia Muslims. Although, the entire Ladakh region is being discriminated, Zanskar valley seems to be the most neglected and discriminated in the state. The discrimination is visible in every field whether it is education, health, infrastructure development, telecommunication or the politics. Some time back when LAHDC was constituted, the Zanskar valley with higher population and more backwardness and inaccessibility was granted only three of the total 26 seats. Similarly, Leh town, with 27000 population was given only two seats. But the places like Markha, Wanla and Korzok valleys with population of 750, 850 and 1500 respectively were given separate constituencies. Not only this, the Nubra valley with 10,000 population was given five seats. The Zanskar valley is culturally and socially different from the majority Muslim community.
This discrimination was brought to the notice of authorities concerned including the Election Commission, Chairman of Delimitation Commission, state government etc. but nobody felt it necessary to pay attention to it. “Despite the fact that the Zanskar Valley comprises of 65 per cent of the total land area of Kargil district this region has been given only three seats and the rest 23 seats have been given to Kargil tehsil, this discrimination is totally unfair and called for action on the part of the authorities concerned, said Shri Namgyal.
The Buddhists of the region are also worried over the negligence to their Bhoti language as there is no arrangement to teach it in the local schools. Referring to electric supply in the valley, the Buddhists delegation said there is hardly four hour supply during the winter season. The condition of health services is so poor that the people live only at the mercy of God. They said what pains them more is that the state government is habitual of discriminating against them, but the central government too is not listening to their woes.