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What is Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution? Can Ladakh be included under it?

What is Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution? Can Ladakh be included under it?

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Other Constitutional Dimensions || Special Provisions for Some states

Why in the news?

Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution. Can Ladakh be included under it?

Introduction:

  • The Indian Constitution’s Sixth Schedule provides for the creation of autonomous administrative divisions inside states that have been granted autonomy.
  • The majority of these independent district councils are in North East India, although two are in Ladakh, a union territory managed by India.
  • Currently, the Sixth Schedule creates ten autonomous councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, with the remaining created through other legislation.
  • Article 244 of the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule deals with the governance of tribal territories in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

Autonomous District Councils:

  • According to the Sixth Schedule, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram all include Tribal Areas, which are theoretically distinct from Scheduled Areas.
  • Despite the fact that these territories are under the state’s administrative control, provisions have been created for the establishment of District Councils and regional councils to exercise certain legislative and judicial responsibilities.
  • Each district is self-contained, and the Governor has the authority to change or divide the boundaries of the Tribal regions upon notification.
  • The Governor has the authority to expand or decrease the size of the autonomous districts, as well as modify their names. While the Union’s executive powers extend to the administration of Scheduled areas in the Vth schedule, the VIth schedule territories remain under state executive control.
  • The sixth schedule to the Constitution includes 10 autonomous district councils in 4 states. These are:
    • Assam: Bodoland Territorial Council, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, and Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council.
    • Meghalaya: Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, and Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
    • Tripura: Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
    • Mizoram: Chakma Autonomous District Council, Lai Autonomous District Council, Mara Autonomous District Council.

Features of the Sixth Schedule:

  • Autonomous districts have been established in the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. They do not, however, fall outside of the executive authority of the state in question.
  • If an autonomous district contains numerous tribes, the governor can partition the district into several autonomous regions.
  • Each Autonomous District shall have a District Council of not more than thirty members, four of whom will be selected by the Governor and the remaining will be elected by adult franchise.
  • The elected members serve for a five-year term (unless the council is disbanded earlier) and the nominated members serve at the governor’s pleasure.
  • A regional council is also present in each autonomous region.

Special Status of Sixth Schedule Areas

  • The Sixth Schedule was initially designed for undivided Assam’s largely tribal territories (tribal population > 90%), which were classified as “excluded areas” under the Government of India Act, 1935, and were under the Governor’s direct administration.
  • To protect the rights of the tribal community in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram, the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule allows for the governance of tribal lands in these states.
    • Articles 244(2) and 275(1) of the Constitution provide for this unique provision.
    • Autonomy in the administration of these territories is provided under the Sixth Schedule through Autonomous District Councils (ADCs).
  • These councils have the authority to enact laws governing the regions under their control, which include land, forest, farming, inheritance, indigenous tribal customs and traditions, and the collection of land revenues and other taxes.
  • ADCs are mini-states with distinct powers and responsibilities in all three branches of government: legislature, executive, and judiciary.

Major Issues:

  • Increase in conflict: Granting special privileges to select minority tribal groups has prompted more demands for comparable provisions under the 6th schedule from other groups. As a result, there has been an increase in conflict between diverse factions, causing division among the population.
  • When it comes to financial autonomy, members of ADCs in North-Eastern states agree that the ADCs are at the mercy of the state governments.
  • Significant gap between the approved budget and the funds: They are also dependent on state governments for decisions regarding the undertaking of developmental activities in their region, as there is a significant gap between the approved budget and the funds received from the state government, which has had a direct impact on the development of these tribal communities.
  • Extensive corruption: Because of extensive corruption, development in these places is seen as a non-existent phenomenon.
  • A lack of cooperation between state administrations, the Department of Planning and Development, the Hill Areas Department, and the Autonomous Councils has resulted in sluggish development implementation.
  • The lack of an effective committee to oversee, evaluate, and keep track of the cash received and spent has resulted in widespread corruption and underdevelopment in these territories administered by the Autonomous Councils.

Drawbacks associated with the Sixth Schedule:

  • It has created multiple power centres, rather than a genuine autonomy process in the region.
  • District councils and state legislatures: These are frequently in conflict of interests. In Meghalaya, for example, the entire state continues to be under the sixth schedule despite the formation of the state, causing frequent conflict with the state government.
  • Demand for special provisions for other groups.
  • Development shortages: As far as financial autonomy is concerned, there is a huge gap between the budget approved and the funds received from the state government which has a direct impact on the development of these tribal communities.
  • 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill: It was introduced in Parliament in February 2019 to change the rules of the Finance Commission (Article 280) and of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Financial and executive powers: It aims to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Sixth Schedule Autonomous Councils in the northeastern region.

Reasons for failure to decrease tension at the ground level:

  • Conflicts of interest: The District Councils and the state legislatures frequently have conflicts of interest. In Meghalaya, for example, despite the state’s establishment, the entire state remains subject to the Sixth Schedule, resulting in regular clashes with the state government.
  • Different cultures and customs exist: Within one autonomous council, such as the Bodo Council and Chakma Council in Assam, various tribal communities with different cultures and customs exist.
  • Social tensions: Migrant inflows have exacerbated demographic imbalances and heightened social tensions.
  • All power has been seized by the tribal elite, leaving ordinary citizens powerless.
  • Competition among local authorities, police, and communities has stifled progress and heightened public animosity.
  • Political ideology: These areas lack political mobilization ie. Mainstream parties having regionalism, localism and communism as political ideology which has drag down the developmental work. People here have low political participation.
  • Conflict between the District Councils: In case of conflict between the District Councils and the State Legislature, the state enjoys the superiority, but then it is alleged that autonomous councils are mere platforms for aspiring politicians who nurture ambitions to contest assembly polls in the future.
  • Multiple power centers: However, there are certain issues due to which the sixth schedule has ended up creating multiple power centers instead of bringing in a genuine process of democratization or autonomy in the region such as Conflict of Power, governor functioning and disparity among autonomous bodies and local bodies.
  • Isolation: Thus despite autonomy, development benefits have not reached the people and caused isolation in the region.

Additional info:

  • The Bordoloi Committee formed by the Constituent Assembly, the 6th Schedule was formulated to provide limited autonomy to the tribal regions of North-East.
  • The report of the Committee indicated that there was a need for an administration system that would enable the creation of tribal areas.
  • The study also called for the defence of these tribal areas from people’s exploitation in the plains and the preservation of their distinct social customs
  • Article 371 A: The Acts of Parliament relating to the following matters would not apply to Nagaland unless decided by the State Legislative Assembly:
    • Nagas religious or social rituals.
    • Customary law and practise in Naga.
    • Civil and criminal justice administration involving decisions under Naga customary law.
    • Possession of land and its properties

Suggestions:

  • Bring a sense of security: The government and other agencies need to win the confidence of non-scheduled area population and bring a sense of security and belongingness to them.
  • Proper coordination or adjustment: There has to be proper coordination or adjustment between traditional practices and usages with changes that have occurred within the tribal society today.
  • Participation of women: The issue on representation needs to be seriously reconsidered, which still has limited participation of women in the decision-making process, and also excludes the non-tribals of the State.
  • Adequate accountability and transparency of funds generated should be entrusted to authorities such as the Comptroller-General and Auditor-General of Accounts to prevent misuse.
  • Documentation and codification of traditional laws is an essential step through which the actual aim of the Sixth Schedule that is the protection of tribal cultural identity can be fulfilled.
  • Transparency: Measures should be taken in order to ensure that the Autonomous Councils have well-defined legislation that clearly identify the powers of the village level bodies, release of funds by the government, transparency in the allocation and utilization of funds.
  • Creation of an effective watchdog with the powers of Lokayukta in monitoring and keeping a track of the activities undertaken by the ADCs should be given priority as this will help in maintaining transparency in matters of finance and other developmental plans and activities.
  • Regular and assured financial assistance from governments an efficient monitoring system are two major factors that will determine the success of such provisions, along with awareness and active participation of the other stakeholders.

Conclusion:

Although unique constitutional protections for marginalised groups are required to ensure that historical injustices against them are not repeated, they are not required. To deal with this sensitive issue, the government and other authorities in the region must earn the trust of tribals and non-tribals alike, as well as establish a sense of security and belonging among them.

Mains oriented question:

Examine the differences between the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution. (150 words)