New Delhi: On April 12, 2020, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil and elected representatives of panchayat and municipal bodies of the district threatened mass resignation if the union territory administration failed to rescue Ladakhi pilgrims and students stuck in different parts of the country and enhance provisions for the procurement of essential commodities during the coronavirus lockdown.
The LAHDC Kargil, panchayat and municipal bodies passed a resolution on Sunday during a joint press conference demanding immediate actions from the government.
Feroze Khan, chief executive councillor, LAHDC Kargil, told The Wire, “There are nearly 336 Ladakhi pilgrims still stuck in Iran amidst the coronavirus outbreak, still waiting to be rescued, nearly 650 are quarantined in Rajasthan, we have drafted this resolution to get them back to Ladakh and quarantine them here, we are fully willing to cooperate but this needs immediate attention.”
Commenting on the availability of essentials, Khan said, “There is an acute shortage in Kargil, Leh. Commodities are being brought in Air Force planes but it is not sufficient. Our demand is to let trucks arrive via the Zojila Pass now that it’s open. We have had hundreds of trucks coming in but now only 10 trucks a day, it is not enough.”
Adding to this, Khan said, “While hundreds of trucks come to Jammu from Lakhanpur, why are we being deprived?”
Shiekh Nazir Mehdi, oresident, Jamiat Ulama Isna Asharia, Kargil, said, “It’s been two weeks since we have been vociferously asking the UT administration Ladakh to disburse essential commodities; we are facing an acute shortage of food commodities as well. We are also concerned about the elderly Ladakhis quarantined outside Ladakh, we have volunteered to even pay as well as cooperate with the administration to get our people safely back home.”
Mehdi added, “So we reached out to all religious organisations from Leh and Kargil to amass cooperation in our struggle, which was well received by all, so we have drafted an ultimatum that if our needs are not taken care of, we shall resign, which will lead to a greater chaos in this lockdown.”
Speaking to The Wire, Mehdi added that the holy month of Ramzan is also around the corner and it would be unfair if fasting people did not have access to essential items.
Sajjad Kargili, a social activist from Kargil, said, “There has been inadequacy on the part of government of India in not only lifting Ladakhis stuck in Iran but also in evacuating Ladakhis stuck in different parts of India. Even those who have been lifted from Iran, they were lifted in Iran’s Mahan Air. Then they were quarantined in different army camps in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Ghaziabad.”
He added, “The unplanned lockdown due to coronavirus has hit Ladakh the hardest. After the August 5, 2019 bifurcation [of Jammu and Kashmir], the lockdown in Ladakh stretched up till January 2020, which delayed the reach of essential commodities. Now with the coronavirus lockdown, commodities have become even scarce.”
Kargili added, “When the reorganisation Bill was presented in parliament, Union home minister Amit Shah had said, ‘Ladakh, including Aksai Chin, will be a Union Territory. Both Hill Councils will continue to be active’. But the activities of this council have been severely restricted post August 5, 2019.”
The Union Territory of Ladakh had recorded a total of 15 cases of coronavirus: five active and 10 recovered.