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6th Schedule of Indian Constitution – Features, Significance, Drawbacks

Inputs from Indian Polity Mindmaps

Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution plays a significant role in the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. It is provided under Articles 244(2) and 275(1) of the Indian Constitution.

This topic of “6th Schedule of Indian Constitution – Features, Significance, Drawbacks” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Features

The Governor has the authority to determine areas, create new districts or regions, and alter the territorial jurisdiction or name of any Autonomous District or Autonomous Region.

There are four parts in the Sixth Schedule, which encompass different tribal areas:

  • Part I (Assam)
    • North-Cachar Hills District
    • Karbi-Anglong District
    • Bodoland Territorial Area District
  • Part II (Meghalaya)
    • Khasi Hills District
    • Jaintia Hills District
    • Garo Hills District
  • Part II-A (Tripura)
    • Tripura Tribal Areas District
  • Part III (Mizoram)
    • Chakma District
    • Mara District
    • Lai District

Features of the Sixth Schedule include the establishment of autonomous districts that do not fall outside the executive authority of the state concerned. If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions. Each Autonomous District has a District Council consisting of not more than thirty members, out of which four are nominated by the Governor while the rest are elected on the basis of adult franchise. Additionally, each autonomous region also has a separate Regional Council.

The Administration of Tribal Areas under the Sixth Schedule has provisions for the creation of Autonomous District Councils and Regional Councils with certain legislative, executive, judicial, and financial powers. However, the administrative powers and functions of these District Councils and Regional Councils differ from State to State.

The Powers and Functions of District Councils and Regional Councils include:

  • Legislative Functions: They can make laws on certain specified matters, but all laws made under this provision require the Governor’s assent.
  • Executive Functions: The Councils are responsible for establishing and managing primary schools, dispensaries, markets, and other essential infrastructure.
  • Judicial Powers: They can constitute Village and District Council Courts for the trial of suits and cases where all parties to the dispute belong to Scheduled Tribes within the district. However, these Council Courts are not given the power to decide cases involving severe offenses.
  • Financial Powers: They can prepare a budget, assess and collect land revenue, impose taxes, and grant licenses or leases for the extraction of minerals within their jurisdiction.

Significance

The Significance of Special Provisions in the Sixth Schedule stems from the unique tribal cultures in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram that have less assimilation with the majority population. These tribes have their own customs and civilization, which necessitates a certain level of autonomy for self-government. The administration of these tribal areas has always been a matter of great concern, and the Sixth Schedule addresses these issues to ensure the welfare of the tribal communities.

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Drawbacks

The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, despite providing significant autonomy and administrative power to tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram, has certain drawbacks:

  1. Inadequate Assimilation: The special provisions under the Sixth Schedule may contribute to the isolation of the tribal communities from the mainstream, limiting opportunities for cultural exchange and integration.
  2. Limited Development: The provisions may inadvertently hinder the overall development and progress of the tribal areas, as they often lack the necessary resources and expertise to tackle complex issues such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.
  3. Misuse of Power: There is a possibility that the local governance bodies, such as the District and Regional Councils, may misuse their powers due to a lack of proper oversight, leading to corruption and inefficiency.
  4. Inconsistent Implementation: The varying administrative powers and functions of District Councils and Regional Councils across different states can lead to inconsistencies in the implementation of policies and programs, affecting the overall welfare of the tribal communities.
  5. Governor’s Influence: The Sixth Schedule provides considerable power to the Governor, which may sometimes lead to delays or inconsistencies in decision-making, as these decisions can be influenced by political considerations.
  6. Limited Judicial Powers: The Council Courts established under the Sixth Schedule do not have the authority to decide on cases involving severe offenses, limiting the scope of their judicial powers and potentially undermining the administration of justice in these areas.

To address these drawbacks, it is crucial to promote a more participatory approach to governance, ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the Sixth Schedule, and provide adequate support to the tribal communities for their overall development and integration with the mainstream population.

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