GS-2, Indian Polity, Public Admin 2

Ladakh Under Sixth Schedule

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has recommended that the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

  • NCST, a constitutional body to safeguard socio-cultural rights of Scheduled Tribes, was entrusted with the responsibility of examining the status of tribals in Ladakh, by the Centre.
  • If included, Ladakh will be the only UT in the Sixth Schedule. Also, bestowing such a status to Ladakh would require a constitutional amendment.

Reasons Behind the Recommendation

  • It is estimated that more than 90% of Ladakh’s population is tribal. The primary Scheduled Tribes (STs)in Ladakh are Balti Beda, Bot (or Boto), Brokpa (or Drokpa, Dard, Shin), Changpa, Garra, Mon and Purigpa.
    • Thereby several distinct cultural heritages of these communities in Ladakh region needs to be preserved and promoted.
  • Prior to the creation of Union Territory of Ladakh, people in Ladakh region had certain agrarian rightsincluding right on land which restricted people from other parts of the country to purchase or acquire land in Ladakh.
  • Inclusion in the sixth schedule will help in democratic devolution of powers in the region and will also enhance the transfer of funds for speedy development of the region.

Sixth Schedule

  • The Constitution, under Sixth Schedule, contains special provisions for the administration of tribal areasin the four north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • Autonomous Districts: The tribal areas in these four states have been constituted as autonomous districts. The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts.
    • The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
    • The power of direction, in this regard, lies either with the President or Governor.
  • District Council: Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the Governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise. 
    • The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members hold office during the pleasure of the governor.
    • Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.
  • Powers of the Council: The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction. 
    • They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation,village administration, the inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on. But all such laws require the assent of the Governor.
    • They can constitute village councils or courts for trial of suits and cases between the tribes. They hear appeals from them. The jurisdiction of the high court over these suits and cases is specified by the governor.
    • The district council can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads and so on in the district.
    • They are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

  • Formation: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003. 
    • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19th February 2004.
  • Composition: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 3 other Members. These are are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
    • One of the three other Members has to be a woman.
    • The Vice-Chairperson and all other Members, out of whom at least two are appointed from amongst persons belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.
  • Term of Office:
    • The term of office of each member of the Commission is three years from the date of assumption of charge.
    • The members are not eligible for appointment for more than two terms.
  • Functions: 
    • To monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution or under any other law or under any order of the Government
    • To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes,
    • To evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State,
    • To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.

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