At a time when Indian and Chinese forces still remain locked in a standoff at various points in eastern Ladakh, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Home Affairs has observed that not enough was being done for people settled in border areas of the region and that the administration of the Union Territory had fared abysmally in utilising funds allocated for development projects.
“The Committee observes that as the people living in border areas are well versed with the terrain and other geographical conditions they can be of immense help in providing civil intelligence inputs relating to the area. …The Committee expresses its concern that currently, some border villages of Ladakh have not been covered under the scheme of BADP (Border Area Development Programme),” the panel, in its report on Demands for Grants tabled in Parliament on Monday, said.
“Therefore, the Committee recommends that the MHA take up the matter to include all border areas of Ladakh including hamlets and other barren lands with small population as per the revised BADP guidelines so that they get the benefits of schemes/programmes under BADP,” the report has said.
The committee, headed by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma, lamented how the Ladakh administration had failed to use development funds. “The Committee is disappointed to note that only 27.42% of funds allocated to the UT of Ladakh in BE 2020-21 has been spent which is abysmally low,” the report said.
It said despite the pandemic, other UTs had utilised more than 60% of their allocations.
Asking MHA to remove bottlenecks, the report said, “The Committee, recommends that the special development package (SDP) may be made non-lapsable for few years to cater to the developmental need of newly created UT.”
On the situation at the border areas of the UT, the committee noted that out of 236 habitable villages, only 172 have telecom infrastructure and only 24 and 78 villages have 3G and 4G internet connectivity, which it said is “very low”.
“The Committee also recommends to electrify all villages in Ladakh particularly, the villages that are located in Zero-Border like Chumar and Demchok in order to stop migration of people from these areas. This will go a long way in fulfilling the developmental needs of these remote yet strategically important localities,” the report said.
The report also made some adverse observations about infrastructure projects in the Himalayan region in the wake of the recent Chamoli disaster.
“The Committee observes that excessive cutting of trees and use of dynamites on Hills/Mountains of the Himalayan region for roads, tunnels, dams and other developmental/infrastructural projects is significantly weakening the surrounding hills and may be causing an avalanche, landslides, flash floods and other catastrophes. …the developmental projects taking place in the region should be considered from the environmental and ecological point of view.
“The Committee recommends that the MHA may coordinate with the concerned agencies including NDMA, Ministry of Road, Transport & Highways, etc. to immediately ban the use of dynamites for developmental projects in the Himalayan region and make judicious use of technology particularly in high altitude Himalayan region to minimize the damage to ecology and environment,” it said.
Taking cognisance of the Chamoli incident, the report said, “In view of the recent severe glacial outburst at Chamoli in Uttarakhand, the Committee, strongly recommends that for ensuring safety of the people of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, a network of meteorological and hydrological stations, monitoring stations and weather stations be set up at the earliest.
“The Committee, also recommends that an urgent assessment needs to be made and organizations like Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, may also be tasked to conduct glaciological studies and prepare glacial lake inventory for Himalayan region using remote sensing and geographical information system (GIS),” it said.
It added that the concerned states should be sensitized by the MHA to place adequate early warning mechanisms in every district so that vulnerable communities can be alerted on the wake of any disaster in future.
The Committee also observed that the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination process had till now covered less than 1 per cent of the Indian population and “at this rate it will take many years to vaccinate whole population.”
“The Committee also expresses its concern that a large number of people are missing the second dose of the vaccine. The Committee believes that it is very serious issue as the virus is mutating and new variants of Covid-19 are being reported in different parts of the world. The Committee therefore, recommends that all frontline health workers and the Corona Warriors including CAPFs and State/UT Police personnel receive the recommended doses of vaccine. An attempt should be made to cover maximum people as early as possible,” the report said.