Bihar caste survey
While the results of the Bihar government’s caste survey may have upset the BJP’s Hindutva unity agenda, the fact is that caste is entrenched not only among Hindus but also Muslims and Christians in India (Cover Story, November 3). It is unfair to deny reservation in education and employment to the Pasmanda Muslims, who constitute over 80 per cent of India’s Muslims, and converted Christians on the grounds that they have come out of the Hindu fold.
It will be in the fitness of things to extend caste reservation to people on the basis of their current income and status, thereby removing the creamy layer, to bring the more deserving into the ambit of reservation.
Kudos to N. Ram for his commitment to, and ceaseless support for, media freedom (“Sentence first - verdict afterwards”, November 3).
The Centre’s modus operandi in the NewsClick case is like putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Wielding the false dilemma of “if you are not with me, you are against me”, the ruling dispensation continues to misuse power and exploit institutional clout to command unreserved acceptance of its misrule. A government has to examine critical opinions and reactions from the media and civil society at large to make a fair assessment of its governance. If it does not take this pulse of resistance from cross sections of society, it betrays its despotic colours.
The role of the Indian media is more crucial now than ever before, and it is time to robustly resist the Centre’s stonewalling and its ill-conceived actions.
Not least because he hailed from Mankombu in Kuttanad, M.S. Swaminathan had an abiding relationship with Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala (“Rice man of India”, November 3). He recommended that the government declare the fragile wetland ecosystem of Kuttanad a “Special Agricultural Zone”, with an emphasis on sustainable development and the cessation of reclamation and encroachment. As Director of the International Rice Research Institute, Manila, the Philippines, he made pioneering contributions to global food security. The first recipient of the World Food Prize in 1987, he used the prize money to establish the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in 1988, which has since made lasting contributions in science-based sustainable agricultural development.
In his death, the nation has lost one of its most distinguished scientists, who reshaped Indian agriculture with his foresight, rich knowledge, and deep understanding of traditional agricultural practices.
The shelving of the 1,750-megawatt hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh after over a decade is a blessing in disguise (“Wildlife be damned”, November 3). Eastern Arunachal Pradesh is an eco-sensitive and earthquake-prone region, located as it is in Zone V of the seismic map.
Authorities venturing into the revival of the dam’s construction would do well to learn from the recent devastation in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim owing to the unmindful exploitation of natural resources.
The Cover Story on the “coaching” factories of Kota was deeply disheartening and alarming to me as an educator and a mother of two (“The tipping point”, October 6).The statistics of suicides highlighted in Frontline are a red alert pointing to the highly commercialised higher education system.
One can only look with suspicion at the changes the National Education Policy 2020 claims it willbring about and hope they will not become another death trap for our already beleaguered students.
Dear Ms Roy,
I am writing to convey our profound disappointment regarding the article titled “A growing disenchantment” by Anando Bhakto (September 22, 2023 issue). While I respect Frontline’s dedication to diverse perspectives on various topics, it is disappointing to note that various baseless allegations have been levelled against the Ladakh UT Administration, but you have not given any chance to the UT administration to present their perspective.
The article contains several factual inaccuracies and sweeping aspersions. As the spokesperson of the UT Administration of Ladakh, I find it imperative to highlight these inaccuracies.
1. Ladakh Administration has taken various steps to ensure that the benefits of public employment are tailored to the aspirations and benefit of the local population. Ladakh Resident Certificate is a mandatory requirement for recruitment to both non-gazetted posts and gazetted posts. No jobs have gone to non-locals.
2. The UT administration amended the Reservation Rules made under the J&K Reservation Act and increased job reservation for Scheduled Tribes from 10 per cent in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir to 45 per cent in the new UT of Ladakh across all categories of posts. This essentially means that educational Institutions like University of Ladakh and other institutes which are governed by UGC regulations shall also have 45 per cent reservation for Scheduled Tribes as defined under the J&K Reservation Act.
3. In October 2019, following the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K government transferred19,878 posts across various departments to the UT of Ladakh. Subsequently, with persistent follow up with J&K, Ladakh received3,757 additional posts, which opens up wider employment opportunities for the people of the UT.
4. Recruitment processes for 5,245 posts are completed/in advanced stages. As I write, over 500 selected candidates from Ladakh are receiving appointment offers. Hence, the article’s conclusion that the administration “has not filled vacancies in the public sector” and that “new jobs remain elusive with non-local people swallowing up the existing ones” is incorrect.
5. No land has been allotted to outsiders or non-Ladakhis by the administration. Misuse of Nautor land by influential people has been curbed to safeguard the interests of the less privileged. The administration has not allowed any land purchase by non-Ladakhis so far.
6. On matters of public interest, Ladakh Administration routinely consults elected representatives/councillors. In February 2021, a series of developmental conclaves with the two Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils were initiated as a platform for political executives and bureaucrats to work for the development of Ladakh. Four conclaves have ensued, covering Housing & Urban Development sector, National Education Policy 2020, Ladakh Smart City Project, Jal Jeevan Mission, and Industrial Land Allotment Policy. Thus, the assertion that “On important matters of public interest, the Councillors are not taken on board” is unfounded.
7. Numerous initiatives have been launched to promote tourism that resonates with local culture and ensures sustainability. These include homestays, removal of inner-line permits, and various events to bolster tourism. Consequently, tourist influx surged from 2,79,937 in 2019 to 5,31,396 in 2022. Thus, the statement, “The neglect of the tourism sector, a significant contributor to Ladakh’s economy, attests to the underutilisation of funds” is not supported by facts.
8. Various strategies have been deployed to champion local entrepreneurs, such as Pashmina promotion, DRDO-backed agriculture and horticulture projects, Prime Minister Employment Guarantee, and micro food-processing initiatives. While the article spotlighted a vendor’s story, transparency in procurement via GEM portal is crucial for public probity.
Although the article begrudgingly acknowledges infrastructural enhancements, it is vital to underscore that the administration’s sole objective is Ladakh’s holistic development in collaboration with local communities, local entrepreneurs, and experts.
Padma Angmo, IIS
Higher Education, Technical Education & Skill Development, Information, Social & Tribal Welfare Department
The Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh
Anando Bhakto replies:
Thank you for your response to the story. At the outset I would like to state that while reporting in Leh, and later from New Delhi, I made persistent efforts by phone calls, text messages, and in person to meet the Chief Executive Councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, as well as the Member of Parliament, Ladakh. They did not meet me.
That said, this is my response to the three key points you have raised:
1. Nearly all the people I interviewed in Ladakh cited unemployment as the chief concern. They included prominent political leaders from the opposition, civil society leaders, and members of the general public. I would have been happy to incorporate the LG administration’s views in the matter, but, as mentioned, my requests for a meeting were not met.
While I appreciate the LG administration’s recruitment processes for 5,245 posts, 2,232 of them are “ongoing”, as you have mentioned, thus the aspirants’ frustration is understandable. Again, as you have stated, 768 of these have been “outsourced”. The absence of a Public Service Commission, which is a prominent point in the charter of demands of Leh’s Apex Body, may also be a reason for the general dissatisfaction with the way the employment issue is being handled.
2. Nowhere does the story suggest that land has been given to outsiders. The story voiced people’s apprehensions about such a threat looming. In this context, I draw attention to the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a high-powered committee in January this year to “ensure the protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh. Again, an opportunity to cite the administration’s stance, such as its endeavour to prevent misuse of Nautor land by influential people, would have helped tremendously.
3. I had cited a significant civil society member to underscore the point that annual funds of the Union Territory Government are lapsing every year. This is a view shared by a cross-section of observers tracking Ladakh as well as individuals associated with the tourism sector, who also suggested where funds could be directed. Again, information about the government’s work in the tourism sector was missing in the article because I did not get access to people in the administration.
Thank you again for your response. More such opportunities for interaction will help us discharge our responsibilities well.