Resentment Swells in Strategic Ladakh as Modi Gov't Fails to Provide Jobs, Quota to Border Villagers
The Indian government carved out a separate administrative region of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, promising better facilities and employment under the direct control of Delhi. However, people are now accusing Delhi of not releasing regular funds for social work and halting the recruitment process without explaining why.
"Give us jobs or give us bullets", proclaimed one of the placards during the protest march by the All Ladakh Unemployed Youth Association in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, on Monday.
Inhabitants have described it as one of the biggest protests in Leh
as the region's youths are suffering an unprecedented level of unemployment triggered by a stalled recruitment process in the past two years.
"This is certainly the first mass rally or peaceful protest in Ladakh by youths demanding jobs. We did not expect the government to delay the recruitment process the way it has," Jigmat Paljor, a student activist and one of the leaders of the protest, told Sputnik.
Paljor said that the protest was supported by various of Ladakh's student unions and civil society groups.
"The government does nothing until we take to the streets. We will keep up the pressure, we will hit the streets again", Paljor insisted.
Students demanded holding the recruitment process for local youths when the country's Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, visited Ladakh in August.
"When the government split Jammu and Kashmir into two separate Union Territories in 2019, there was no resentment in Leh. Rather, people in Leh-Ladakh welcomed the decision. But now huge resentment has been building as their aspirations go unfulfilled."
Kargili added that, under the new administrative structure, people's representatives have lost their importance as bureaucrats control them.
Spread over 59,146 square kilometres, Ladakh has fewer than 300,000 people and more than 97 percent of the population belongs to Scheduled Tribes.
As large parts of Ladakh are highly underdeveloped for several reasons - including treacherous hilly areas - government jobs and government-funded development works are necessary for locals to scrape a living.
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, a BJP politician from Ladakh, raised the issue of vacant government posts in March this year. Still, India's Ministry of Home Affairs did not provide a concrete number during the response in parliament.
"Though the gazetted posts are filled by the Union Public Service Commission, the non-gazetted District Cadre posts are to be filled by the respective recruitment boards of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council(s) based on the Recruitment Rules for such vacancies," Gangapuram Kishan Reddy, Ladakh's Minister of State for Home Affairs had said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs claimed 493 District Cadre Posts had been filled in 2020 and 538 people had also been engaged via outsourcing.
"Only when we put pressure on the government will it move. We want local youths to be recruited into permanent jobs. But in two years the government has only issued orders to provide resident certificates," Paljor said.
Paljor says the administration put out an advertisement to fill 214 vacancies in the police service only after they had been pressured to do so by the mass rally.
Locals from villages near the Chinese border have a different issue. After the federal government scrapped a rule a few years back, they lost the special quota in government jobs.
"In every recruitment drive for the army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Ladakh Police, the final selection see proportionally fewer candidates from the Changthang region compared with other developed Ladakh regions. We want special quota to be restored for border villages."
Stanzin also highlighted that in the past two years, border regions did not receive funds under the Border Area Development Programme, a federally sponsored fund designed to meet the special development needs of people living in remote and inaccessible areas
near the international border.
"It has halted all the works in the border villages, and this has also created unemployment. The government must release funds," declared Stanzin, who raised his concerns on 8 October with Radha Krishna Mathur, Lieutenant-Governor of Ladakh.
Most people agree that there is a pressing and immediate need to tackle locals' concerns to avoid any possibility of the resentment spreading into such places as the Kashmir valley in what is otherwise a peaceful Ladakh.