Ladakh: Sonam Wangchuk, the man who inspired 'Three Idiots', under house arrest
Wangchuk has expressed concerns about the potential for corporate expansion in the union territory, which may add to the already severe shortage of resources
The Ladakh administration has placed innovator Sonam Wangchuk under house arrest. Wangchuk, whose work inspired the 2009 bollywood movie Three Idiots, started a five day fast on Republic Day at the rooftop of his Himalayan Institute of Alternatives Ladakh. He is demanding the sixth schedule of the constitution and other safeguards for the region, besides urging people to change their carbon-intensive lifestyle to fight climate change.
The demand to implement the sixth Schedule of the Constitution to safeguard land, employment, and cultural identity of the local population had risen since the status of Ladakh was changed into a union territory.
Wangchuk has expressed concerns about the potential for corporate expansion in the union territory, which may add to the already severe shortage of resources like water. Mining and other activities may also cause the glaciers to melt.
In a previous video shared on YouTube, Wangchuk urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure safety and protection of Ladakh as studies suggest extinction of 2/3rd of the glaciers in the Union Territory.
"This is an urgent appeal from Sonam Wangchuk in Ladakh (in the Indian Himalayas) to the people of India and the world to help protect the environmentally sensitive region of Ladakh," Wanchuk said in his video, while appealing to the prime minister to intervene and safeguard the fragile ecosystem under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
His house arrest now restricts him from travelling to Khardungla pass-- around 17852 feet above sea level-- where he had planned to protest along with other supporters of his cause.
Sonam Wangchuk is a mechanical engineer and Director of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL). He was a recipient of the Magsaysay Award in the year 2018. He is the founding-director of the Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), which was founded in 1988 by a group of students who had been in his own words, the 'victims' of an alien education system foisted on Ladakh. He is also known for designing the SECMOL campus that runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting or heating.
Wangchuk's concerns were shared by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge who accused the Modi government of betraying the people of Ladakh by not agreeing to their demand for grant of statehood to the Union territory and protecting the eco-sensitive region.
He alleged that by not agreeing to their demand for statehood and safeguards for the tribal people under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, the government is endangering India's national security in a strategic border region.
"Narendra Modi ji, people of Ladakh are unitedly demanding statehood for the Union Territory, and safeguards for the tribal people of the region under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution," Kharge said on Twitter.
"But your Government has deceitfully betrayed them, despite making tall promises," he alleged.
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has recommended that the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. NCST, a constitutional body to safeguard socio-cultural rights of Scheduled Tribes, was entrusted with the responsibility of examining the status of tribals in Ladakh, by the Centre. The Constitution requires 50 percent of a region's population to be tribal for the 6th Schedule to apply. Ladakh has over 95% of its population as tribal and was expected to be added soon. But its status remains thus far unchanged.
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