Tsewang Rigzin

“By 2025, Ladakh will emerge as country’s best model of hill area development in a challenging environment, with its sustainability embedded in ecological protection, cultural heritage and human development”,  states the Ladakh 2025 – Vision Document. It further envisages that Ladakh will be seen as an ideal society geared towards economic self-reliance, full employment and enhanced quality of life for its people, with equity, social justice, rights, peace and freedom, and focus on vulnerable and marginalised sections.
The second Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) of Leh came up with ‘Ladakh 2025 Vision Document’ outlining a roadmap for a sustainable and holistic development in Ladakh with a focus on land based economy.
A committee formed to formulate Vision Document was headed by retired chief engineer Sonam Dawa with experts from different fields of government and non-government agencies as members.  Ladakh 2025- Vision Document was completed after a rigorous yearlong discussion, debate and consultations from the grassroots to the national level, and it was unveiled by then Prime Minister in 2005 at Leh.
Since its launch Leh has already seen three Hill Council elections and implementation of Vision Document has always been one of the main agendas of the political parties during elections.  Even after a lapse of more than a decade, the Vision Document has remained just a document without being backed by action plan.  There was much enthusiasm and a ray of hope among Ladakhis when Ladakh 2025 Vision Document was launched.
The third LAHDC Leh made no efforts in implementing the Vision Document. However, an exercise was done by the 4th LAHDC Leh in 2011 to reverse the pattern of the district plan from the conventional planning process to make it a need based plan in Ladakh’s peculiar context keeping in view the objectives enshrined in the Vision Document. Subsequently with the support of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), a Perspective Plan for 12th Five Year was formulated by LAHDC and was unveiled by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2012.
The objective of the perspective plan was to narrow down the Vision into actual action points, strategies and focus areas for each department. Later the fourth LAHDC had to project strong resentment against State government for skipping the incorporation of Perspective Plan for 12th Five Year Plan of district Leh into the State Annual Plan for 2012-13 and Five Year Plan (2012-2017).
Whatever reason it may be, implementation of it has not yet seen the light of the day. Moreover, many decisions taken by 3rd LAHDC (2005-2010) ruled by Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) which later turned Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and 4th LAHDC (2010-2015) of Congress were against the spirit of the Vision Document.
Since it was formulated a decade ago, political parties now promise to revisit Ladakh 2025 to modify it in present context.  BJP Leh, which rules 5th LAHDC Leh at present, had ‘revisiting of Vision Document’ as one of the five main agendas in its manifesto during recent Hill Council elections.
“In the past 10 years there have been many changes in the internal and external environment surrounding development of Ladakh. BJP resolves to initiate participatory process to revisit the vision document”, the manifesto reads adding that the process would involve all relevant local stakeholders as well as subject experts, representatives of Central ministries, State government and various other resource institutions.
A four-day ‘Vikalp Sangam’ (Alternatives Confluence) held in Leh recently observed that there was a need for a practical roadmap for implementation, including monitoring and periodic assessment, and with proper prioritization of key social and environmental sectors as identified by the Vision Document.
The Alternatives Confluence discussed Vision Document in detail and came up with s set of recommendations.  It was organized jointly by Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDEG), Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT), Students’ Educational Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), and Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO), and the Pune/Delhi based NGO Kalpavriksh.
VikalpSangam organizers will soon present the recommendations to LAHDC Leh which has been in power for about three months now.  Among many others the recommendations include Full recycling /re-use of wastewater in urban areas, Promotion rural livelihoods to check migration,  multimedia centers in villages, including internet and phone connection, Ladakhi channels to be uploaded on DTH, up-gradation of All India Radio Leh to enable its reach to all villages, All rural and urban infrastructure to be accessible to differently-abled people, Proposal for Ladakh as World Heritage Site (on cultural and geological grounds) without affecting the legitimate economic and traditional activities of Ladakhi residents, introduction of alternative pedagogic systems into all schools and colleges, including valuing different skills and aptitudes rather than forcing uniformity/ homogeneity, vocational and practical skills and reducing importance of exams as the only means of assessing students, shift subsidies of chemical fertilisers to local organic farming and products and declare a target to convert all of Ladakh into organic region, prepare a comprehensive perspective plan for Leh, working towards making it ecologically sustainable, with full public civic facilities, public transportation, cycling and walking as the main modes of transport, regulation of constructions, and other such aspects.
(The author is a freelance journalist. The article has been written under NFI National Media Fellowship 2015-16. He can be reached at [email protected])