District status for Zanskar

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URGAIN DORJAY

It is pertinent here to describe Zanskar succinctly for those who have no idea about it. Zanskar is a sub-division under district Kargil located in the northern Trans Himalayan region of newly created Union Territory of Ladakh. It has the distinction of one of the three oldest Tehsils in Ladakh in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. The other two are Leh and Kargil.
Back then, owing to the political nature of the State, Ladakh was reorganised into two district, Leh and Kargil apparently on the religious line in year 1979. Zanskar even being Buddhist majority was made part of the Muslim dominated Kargil district. Since then Zanskar has always been on the receiving end. Even when the delimitation of assembly constituencies was carried out, Zanskar constituency through gerrymandering placed in such a scenariothat, that it never got its due representation in the Assembly. Never in the history of State Assembly, could a leader from Zanskar become a member of it.
According to a statement, President of Ladakh Buddhist Association Zanskar (LBAZ) said that the people of Zanskar have been demanding district status for the past seven decades.
It is now over seven decades that the people of Zanskar have been demanding district status. Almost every party fought elections on the card of district status, but could never materialised the aspiration of people. All the stakeholders in Zanskar involving political parties, religious organisations, civil societies etc. supported the movement for district status. Every time the Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir did not pay any heed to the demand of the people of Zanskar.
In 2006, the then Jammu & Kashmir Govt. under the Chief Ministership of Ghulam Nabi Azad had taken a decision to create new eight districts, four each in Jammu province and Kashmir valley. But Zanskar was again not in the list. According to the decision, Bandipur, Shopian, Kulgam and Ganderbal in the valley while Samba, Kishtwar, Ramban and Reasi in Jammu region were made new districts.
Last year, All Zanskar Coordination Committee(AZCC), a neutral body constituting members from all parties, religious organisations, and civil societies was formed particularly to spearhead the movement in a non-partisan manner under one platform. Even the youth, generally the student, community, were forced to come on the roads to raise voice against the injustices meted out to the region of Zanskar.
Zanskar is around 240 Km from its district headquarter Kargil. No other tehsil in all over the country is at such a huge distance from its district headquarter. It remains cut off in the winter months not only from the rest of the country but also from its district HQ. The people here have to go through many challenges particularly during these harsh winter months due to lack of basic amenities.
Zanskar has an area of about 7000 sq km. Most importantly, it has distinct custom, culture, tradition to that of district Kargil. The remoteness and its inaccessibility makes Zanskar eligible for establishing as a separate district. Lack of employment opportunities for today’s highly qualified youth in Zanskar. Administrative ineffectiveness due to its long distance from the district HQ. Although, the Sub Division Magistrate (SDM) of Zanskar has been given the authority of Area Development Officer but subject to the overall supervision of District Magistrate (DM).
Barring few villages, many parts in Zanskar are still struggling to afford phone connectivity even after 73 years of independence.
Absence of a proper road to the district HQ and under staffed hospital, schools, and only Degree College makes a genuine case for district status to ensure all round development of the region.
In view of the above factors, it is a genuine demand for separate district status. But there are some people opposing it on administrative grounds as well as stating that it is a sparsely populated area for up gradation to a district status. The least populated district in India is Upper Dibang in Arunachal Pradesh which has a population of approximately 7,948 (2011 census), much lesser than Zanskar which has a population of approximately 20,000. The only thing needed is political will to fulfil the long pending demand of the people of Zanskar. Lets hope for the best to come. Zanskar deserves this.

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