NEW DELHI / LEH – As Ladakh stands on the threshold of a historic change, its MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal has said investors from multiple fields have shown keenness to invest in the region, with the tourism sector drawing maximum interested parties.
On October 31, Ladakh will officially assume the identity of a Union Territory, a long-standing demand of the local population.
Ever since the government abolished sections of Article 370 that gave special powers to Jammu and Kashmir and imposed restrictions on infrastructure-related projects in the state, a number of people from across the country have approached us to invest in various sectors, Namgyal said.
“So, be it solar energy, geo-thermal energy, medicinal plants, health or tourism, a large number of investors have shown keen interest. And, maximum such investors are from the tourism sector, keen to start business in Ladakh,” he told PTI in an interview.
Namgyal had shot to limelight with his impassioned speech in Parliament on abrogation of provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir that gave the state a special status.
“Ladakh as a UT will not only boost development and future of the region but also give us an identity which is very different, as we have no commonality with Jammu and Kashmir,” he maintained.
“Even as we are to transition into a new identity of a UT, investors from tourism sectors from various parts of the country have approached us, seeking to open hotels, restaurants, tour operating businesses and other related activities,” he said.
Namgyal said he has asked the investors to be patient and first let the new Ladakh administration settle in.
“I have told them to be not in a hurry. We are getting a brand new administrative set up, and various sections of services from J&K are to be accordingly made over to Ladakh, be it from KAS (Kashmir Administrative Service) or J&K Police or J&K Tourism Department. Also, a Lt Governor will take charge. So, I have told investors to be patient,” the BJP lawmaker said.
IAS officers Girish Chandra Murmu and R K Mathur were last week appointed the new Lt Governors of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh respectively.
The Modi government post the abrogation of sections of Article 370 had bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into UTs Ladakh and JK. Both of these will come into existence on October 31.
The removal of special status will open up opportunities for companies to invest in infrastructure projects in the Himalayan region, which many residents, both in Ladakh and J&K are apprehensive about.
Several locals in Ladakh, both young and old, are apprehensive that new infrastructure projects and mega buildings in hilly areas might damage the ecologically sensitive region.
Namgyal had earlier said that future projects will have to be in harmony with the “fragile eco-system” of the Ladakh region.
“It depends on our vision, as to how to serve Ladakh, our people and the future generation. So, I must welcome investors, but with conditions, like land will not be given in their name; they have to contribute some portion of job opportunities to our local youth; and whatever earning they make from resources, they have to contribute royalty to the council fund to develop the area,” he had said.
Ladakh region is currently divided into two districts — Leh and Kargil. Both the districts are governed by their own Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), with 26 elected members and four nominated members each.
Days after the abrogation of the special provisions of the Article 370, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his televised address to the nation had said that Ladakh has the potential to become the biggest centre of spiritual, adventure and eco-tourism and it can be a major centre of solar power generation.
The government recently had announced that Siachen area, the world’s highest battlefield, is now open to tourists.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who visited eastern Ladakh on October 21 to inaugurate Col Chewang Rinchin Bridge on Shyok River, India’s highest-altitude permanent bridge, had also asserted that the region had the potential to become an international tourist destination.
The Ladakh MP, during an interaction with PTI, said soon after the abrogation move was announced, many local hoteliers, restaurant-owners and tour operators had reached out to him and expresses apprehension that big players would consume their business.
“I held a meeting with representatives of hotels and tour operators and told them not be feel apprehensive… A new era of development has been ushered in and it is all for the good of Ladakh and its people,” he said.
“I once again congratulate and greet people of Ladakh as our dream of having a UT status will officially be realised on October 31,” the Ladakh MP said.