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As many as 200 MPs from both ruling and opposition parties have visited Ladakh in the last two months which shows the importance that the government and the people of the country attach to the region, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said on Friday.

Inaugurating the Parliamentary Outreach Programme for the Empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions, Birla commended the spirit of Ladakhi people, saying the way Ladakh is emerging as a self-reliant entity in the face of adverse geographical and other challenges is an example for the rest of the nation.

The Speaker appreciated the valour of the people of Ladakh and their contribution in India’s defence, asserting that they have “set an important example for others”.

Highlighting that democracy is reflected in the traditions of Ladakh, Mr. Birla said, “The region traditionally has had a system of self-government in the villages. Gob and Churp traditionally have been chief officers, who managed the distribution of water and other resources and looked after matters of agriculture and other works on the basis of mutual cooperation.”

Later, addressing a press conference, Mr. Birla said a large number of MPs have visited Leh and its surrounding areas in the last few months.

“Recently, 13 parliamentary standing committees of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha with more than 200 members have visited the UT of Ladakh which speaks about the commitment of Parliament to further the development of Ladakh without compromising its identity and culture,” Mr. Birla said.

The Speaker said this also shows the affection and the importance the government and Indians give to this region and fellow countrymen.

Responding to questions on recent disruptions in Parliament, Mr. Birla emphasised its role as a forum of discussion.

“Parliament as the supreme democratic institution, should be the centre of discussion and not disruption,” he said.

Mr. Birla also said efforts should be made to develop the region as a centre for winter sports and tourist destination with global standards.

Meanwhile, chairpersons of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Kargil and Leh, welcomed Birla and appreciated him for organising the outreach programme while expressing optimism that it will strengthen grassroots democracy in the region. Speaking at the event, BJP MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal said Birla is the first-ever Lok Sabha speaker to visit Ladakh since independence.

The MP said grassroots democracy has been strengthended in Ladakh and Kargil regions after 2014 — the year BJP swept to power at the Centre — and the recent initiatives of the government have deepened democracy.

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