Jammu, December 8
First Lt-Governor of the Union Territory of Ladakh, carved out of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, is aware of his new responsibility. He has promised to deliver as per the expectations that Ladakh and rest of the country have pinned on him.
RK Mathur, a former Defence Secretary and Chief Information Commissioner, in an exclusive interview with The Tribune via email, his first since he took over his new position on October 31, was both candid and cautious in his observations regarding the task ahead for him in one of the most strategic regions in the country.
Asked as to how he felt being the Lt-Governor of Ladakh, he said it was his “privilege to be the first Lt-Governor of the Union Territory of Ladakh”, adding candidly that he was “acutely aware” of the expectations of the people of Ladakh and the country. “It would be my endeavour to fulfil these in some measure,” he said. Mathur, who has met a large number of people from Leh and Kargil districts in his less-than six-week tenure so far, has gathered the impression that “Ladakh is very happy over the region being given the UT status”. He further observed that the Ladakh society had a large number of “talented professionals”.
Virtually ruling out any religious differences in Ladakh, he quipped: “Great religious harmony prevails.” His response was to constant reports on severe differences between Buddhist-dominated Leh district and the Muslim-majority Kargil.
His assessment is the (Ladakhi) society is ready to “move forward and progress. With the government closer to them and the substantive development package that has been announced, I feel that Ladakh shall progress at a fast pace.” Mathur, while discussing the different needs of the two districts of Leh and Kargil, noted that the “two districts have different needs in different areas. The government shall address those needs to enable progress and development of each district in its own way.”
Regarding tribal affairs status to the Ladakh UT, the Lt-Governor reproduced the GoI’s reply in Parliament, that read: “The LAHDC Act,1997, provides for establishment of Autonomous Hill Development Councils in the Ladakh region.” These councils came into existence in Leh in 1995 and in Kargil in 2003. He made it clear that the “powers given to these councils are more or less with the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India”. After the amendment of the LAHDC Act, these councils were, perhaps, the most empowered Autonomous Hill Development Councils in the country, he pointed out.
On the strategic location of Ladakh and its unprecedented challenges in the region that borders China and Pakistan and houses all-too-important Siachen glacier, the Lt-Governor said it was the joint responsibility of “both the armed forces and the citizens of Ladakh to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country. It is our collective endeavour to be ever prepared and vigilant.”
He hoped that Ladakh would become prosperous with high-quality education, health services and infrastructure development.” Areas like tourism, animal resources, horticulture, agriculture, food processing, pashmina etc have a great commercial potential. The UT administration shall work with the people to attain higher levels in these areas, while honouring the sensitivities related to protection and promotion of ecology and culture.” On the rotation of the UT administration between Leh and Kargil, the Lt-Governor cleared the air:“The government has made headquarters of 12 departments each at Leh and Kargil. The government shall endeavour to work holistically. There would be no Darbar move. To fulfill needs of both districts, the officers would travel wherever required for achieving administrative efficiency and results.”
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