The 18th February saw a number of flight sorties across Ladakh, ferrying people across the snow-bound winter landscape. 32 Zanskaris took advantage of a rare helicopter flight between Leh and Padum whilst 18 took the opportunity of leaving Padum for the return leg to Leh. No doubt many returning to Zanskar were trek teams fresh from the chaddar. Reports from a number of trekking groups this year confirm generally favourable conditions on the frozen river. Reports also suggest that the progress of the chaddar road is only a couple of KM more than reported in my news post of Oct 2009.
Reported earlier in February the BJP is to raise the plight of the Zanskar's inhabitants in New Delhi's Parliament. Apparently the Zanskari people have been suffering so called atrocities and injustices at the hands of the J&K Government and the BJP have seemingly grasped at this, championing the cause of Zanskaris at the highest levels. Furthermore, in what was possibly the second part of a two pronged manoeuvre Feroz Ahmed appraised Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of similar details, calling for special development schemes to upgrade and develop Zanskar's basic amenities and provide an employment package for Zanskar's youth.
There is no doubt a lengthy and complex history of sour relations between Zanskar's Buddhist population and the Muslim dominated administration of J&K. Saying that I think there are also issues between Padum's Sunni population and certain aspects of the J&K Government. However, I can't help think that the right wing, nationalistic BJP may not offer the most objective account of development to date. There is I fear a bigger picture and Zanskar's issues are but a miniscule cog in the giant wheels of Indian party politics.
Zanskar's development is certainly lacking, however I think the main problems are a lack of direction, planning and accountability, not a lack of funding. Zanskar's youth could certainly do with a boost but again this would be better provided in the form of a well structured apprenticeship scheme rather than another financially loaded development package that gets frittered away. If the plight of Zanskar is actually aired in New Delhi then Parliament could do a lot worse than send leadership, someone that would finally take long-term control (a new SDM every two years clearly doesn't work), patch up communal differences and steer Zanskar and Zanskaris to a better future. I fear without it Zanskar may come off the rails.