Controversy Erupts Over Ladakh’s New Industrial Land Allotment Policy, Challenging Autonomy and Environmental Concerns

VoL Desk, Nov. 06: The recently finalised “Ladakh Industrial Land Allotment Policy – 2023” seems to have sparked public outrage once again against the Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh. As per critics, the recent policy contradicts the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act 1995, which empowers the two elected local autonomous bodies of Leh and Kargil districts for land allotment. However, the recent policy for industrial land allotment has vested this power in the three Single Window Clearance Committees.

The Ladakh Industrial Land Allotment Policy – 2023 is the first of its kind after the formation of Ladakh as a separate Union Territory. Previously, before the formation of the Union Territory, the region followed Jammu and Kashmir’s Industrial Policy 2016.

The public discourse on the said policy began after a meeting of the Leh Apex Body on Sunday (November 05, 2023), chaired by Thupstan Chhewang in the presence of Sh Chhering Dorje Lakrook (Veteran Leader) and members of the Apex body. During the meeting, discussions were held on the Ladakh Industrial Land Allotment Policy 2023, and the Apex Body experts and legal cell were instructed to review and analyze it. They were to submit their report by November 8 to the Apex Body.

Accordingly, the Apex Body would suggest amendments to the UT Administration, if necessary, in the Ladakh Industrial Land Allotment Policy 2023, aligning it with the aspirations of the people of Ladakh by November 9, 2023.

The meeting also addressed the Mega Solar Power project at Skyangchuthang-Changthang and its environmental impact on the region. Further details about the Apex body delegation’s composition to meet with MHA, Govt of India, will be shared with the public through a press conference soon.

It was resolved in the meeting that the ongoing tour of Apex body members to various regions of Leh District to educate and sensitize people at the grassroots level about the 4 points agenda, including the 6 Schedule for Ladakh, would resume soon as per the earlier schedule.

Subsequently, debate arose among the public after a post by Advocate Mustafa Haji on X, stating that the new policy makes no mention of the councils whatsoever, even though the powers regarding land were with the LAHDCs.

“The powers regarding land, as per the LAHDC Acts, are with the autonomous councils to date. The new Industrial land allotment policy currently in force makes no mention of the councils and conveniently sidelines them,” stated Haji Mustafa, a legal consultant for the Leh Apex Body. “This policy, which envisions ‘rapid industrialization in Ladakh,’ goes against the interests of the people and the fragile environment. It’s a big NO,” he added in a thread.

Nasir Hussain Munshi, the President of District Congress Committee, Kargil, and sitting Councillor from Choskore Constituency, also expressed his resentment against the new policy on X. “The new industrial policy undermines the powers of the autonomous hill councils and allows big industries to enter Ladakh against the will of its people. Therefore, it is unconstitutional and liable to be set aside,” stated Nasir.

“The policy casually speaks about land allotment and arrogates powers to itself, contrary to the wishes of the people of Ladakh. Despite numerous reservations against it, it is still being implemented. There is a need for the LAHDCs of Leh and Kargil to seek legal recourse.”