Residents of the Union Territory of Ladakh say they have been suffering both due to the standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies and growing cases of Covid-19.
Residents of the region have had to do without a tourist season and are now living under the shadow of war. Fresh cases of Covid-19 have added to their worries, especially in the far-off villages.
Bakir Ali has been living in Leh town for the past few months with his family in a rented accommodation. He said that in the past few days, the entire BSNL network has stopped and many residents have been unable to get information from their villages due to lack of a telephone network.
Recently, the toll due to Covid-19 reached 39 when an old person died from Covid in the Ladakh region. Already, cases have piled up to 2,800, with over 60 more people testing positive for the infection, including 46 in Leh and the rest in Kargil, according to officials in Ladakh.
Amid war fears, common people have fears that if Covid cases rise in the coming months, how the administration will be able to provide them with medical help. “We are not sure about medical supplies to the region for the winter months. We have no idea if the government can cope with the growing pandemic during the winter months,” said Nayeem Salpher of Leh.
Local journalist Baker Cho, who works with different media outlets, told this reporter from Leh that although the authorities have established the Mahabudi Covid hospital facility at Choglamsar in Leh, it lacks most facilities and people have fear about supplies in the winter.
“Oxygen supply is needed not only for Covid patients, but many elderly people need oxygen support during the winter months. People have no clue whether the UT administration of Ladakh is doing anything for such supplies,” Cho told this reporter.
Many prominent citizens of Ladakh, including some former lawmakers, are worried about the situation prevailing on the LAC. Deldan Namgyal, former MLA from Ladakh, recently told the media that the reason behind the fresh clashes with China is the decisions taken by the Centre on 5 August last year, including making the Ladakh region a separate Union Territory.
Namgyal is not the only person who fears war in the Ladakh region; even people living in Leh claimed that fresh incursions by the Chinese army have made the entire region vulnerable. Namgyal told the media that, according to information of locals, Leh City will be only 80 km from China’s incursion in eastern Ladakh.
People of Ladakh want an end to the standoff before the winters as they remain cut off and the standoff will only add to their problems.
“We are silently suffering. Most of the time, the Srinagar-Leh highway is being used for army movement and we are already in the month of September. We do not have enough stocks in Kargil and Leh for the common people for the six months of winter. Even some media people who come to Ladakh are ignoring such grievances of the common people,” said Ghulam Ali of Kargil who is a shopkeeper and is waiting for supplies for the winter months.
However, Marry Roth, Assistant Director in-charge of supplies in the Union Territory of Ladakh, told this newspaper that they have enough stocks of essential commodities available. She said, “We have enough supplies and people should not worry as we still have a few weeks up to October end for civil supplies to reach Ladakh.”
Fears of the common man are rooted in recent reports that the authorities closed the Srinagar-Leh highway for civilian traffic, as a lot of additional troops were being moved to Ladakh to combat the Chinese incursions and remain in strength for the winters.