The National Commission for Scheduled Tribe had written to the Union Home Minister and Union Minister of Tribal Affairs recommending the inclusion of Ladakh under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India. The Union Territory of Ladakh, being predominantly a tribal region, has its own unique culture and heritage which needs to be preserved by the government for the inclusive growth and development of the diverse Indian nation.
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What are the recommendations made by NCST with regards to Ladakh?
- The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has recommended the inclusion of the Union Territory of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
- The Centre had entrusted the NCST with the task of examining the status of the tribes in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
- If this recommendation is implemented, Ladakh will become the only UT under the Sixth Schedule.
- Furthermore, if this is to be done, there is a necessity for a constitutional amendment.
What is NCST?
- National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established following the amendment of Article 338.
- Article 338A was inserted in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
- On the 89th Amendment of the Indian Constitution coming into force on 19th February 2004, the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes has been established under Article 338A on bifurcation of the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Thus, the then National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced with National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes since 19th February 2004.
- Its headquarters is in New Delhi.
- Composition: The NCST consists of a Chairperson, a vice-Chairperson and three other persons. One of the three members must be a woman. The Vice-Chairman and all other members, out of whom, at least two are to be appointed from amongst the persons belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.
- Appointment: The members are appointed by the President of India.
- Tenure in office: The term in office for each of the members of this commission is three years from the date of assumption of charge. The members cannot be appointed after two terms in office.
- To monitor all matters related to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution or any other law or any order of the government.
- To participate and advise on the planning of the socio-economic development of the STs,
- To evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and States.
- To present to the President, annually or at times when the Commission sees fit, with a report on the efficiency of the safeguards.
What is the Sixth Schedule?
- The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution consists of the special provisions for the administration of the tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura.
- The provisions of the Sixth Schedule are as follows:
- Autonomous Districts:
- The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution allows for the formation of Autonomous Districts.
- The governor has the power to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts.
- The Acts under the Parliament or the State legislature either do not apply to the autonomous districts or apply with certain specific modifications and exceptions.
- The power of direction, in this regard, either rests in the hands of the President or the Governor.
- Autonomous District Council:
- ADC is a corporate body representing the district within a state to which the Indian Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the legislature.
- This body administers land, forest rights, agriculture, planning, the appointment of chief/headman, social customs, etc., of the region.
- Each of the autonomous districts consists of a district council that has 30 members.
- Of these 30 members, 4 are nominated by the governor, while the rest are elected.
- The elected members’ tenure in office is five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and the nominated members hold the office until the Governor says otherwise.
- Each autonomous region also has a regional council.
- Powers of the district and regional councils:
- They are involved in the administration of the areas that are under their jurisdiction.
- They have the power to make laws on specific matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, the inheritance of property, marriage, and divorce, social customs and so on.
- However, these laws require the approval of the governor.
- They can also establish village councils or courts for trials of suits and cases between tribes.
- The jurisdiction of the HC over these cases is specified by the governor.
- Furthermore, the district council can establish, construct and manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads, etc., within their jurisdiction.
- The councils also have the power to assess and collect land revenue and impose certain taxes.
- Powers of the governor:
- The governor can also appoint a commission to examine and report on any matter related to the administration of the autonomous districts or regions.
- He can also dissolve a district or a regional council if the need arises based on the recommendation of the commission.
- The Sixth Schedule is also known as Constitution within the Constitution as it allows the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) to make laws that forbid the outsiders from buying tribal land, restricts entry and trade by outsiders, and protects the natives’ customs and therefore, their identity.
Why were these recommendations made?
- NCST had recommended the inclusion of the Union Territory of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
- The reasons are as follows:
- More than 90% of Ladakh’s population comes under the Scheduled Tribes.
- The primary tribal groups in Ladakh are as follows:
- Bot or Boto
- Brokpa, Drokpa, Dard, Shin
- Thus, there are several diverse cultural heritages within Ladakh and they ought to be preserved and be endorsed.
- Before Ladakh became a Union Territory, the people of this region had certain agrarian rights like the right on ownership of land. It simultaneously restricts the outsiders from purchasing lands in Ladakh.
- This needs to be retained for the economic growth of this community.
- Bringing Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule would ensure the preservation of the tribes’ identity and democratic devolution of powers in the region.
- It will also enable the local government to acquire funds from the Centre faster to ensure speedier development of the region.
Bringing Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution is a necessary step not only for preserving its unique identity but also to ensure its economic development. Furthermore, it will immensely help unified India in addressing the cherished aspirations of the tribal people in the Ladakh region.