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No proposal to implement Panchayat system in Sixth Schedule areas of Assam: MHA

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    26th Mar, 2021
  • Context

    • GS-II- Polity
    • Indian Constitution— Amendments, Significant Provisions 

    In a recent development, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Lok Sabha that “presently, there is no proposal to implement the ‘Panchayat system’ in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam”.

  • Background

    • In January 2019, the Union Cabinet approved various amendments which were aimed to increase the financial and executive powers of the autonomous councils in the scheduled areas.
    • Subsequently, the Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha that provides for ‘elected village municipal councils’.  
    • The Bill (still active proposes that the State Election Commissions (SECs) will hold elections to the autonomous councils, village and municipal councils.  
  • Analysis

    What is Sixth Schedule of the Constitution?

    • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in north eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, according toArticle 244 of the Constitution. 
    • Along with protecting the tribal population, the Schedule provides autonomy to the communities through creation of autonomous development councils (ADCs) which are empowered to frame laws on land, public health, agriculture and others. 

    Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

    • The Fifth Schedule deals with administration of scheduled areas where majority of the population comprises of the tribal communities.
    • Currently, the schedule is in force in 10 states of the country.
      • These states include Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Telangana.

     

  • What Autonomous districts and regional councils?

    • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India provides for Autonomous district, along with separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region in the district. 
      • Under the Schedule, these councils have been given Legislative, Administrative and Judicial powers
      • No Central or State law in respect of the legislative powers conferred on the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) could be extended to those areas without their prior approval.
      • Also, these councils are empowered to constitute Village councils and courts.
    • In all, there are 10 autonomous councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.  The specified tribal areas are –
      • Assam: the Bodoland Territorial Area, North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong 
      • Meghalaya: Khasi Hills, Jaintiya Hills and Garo Hills
      • Mizoram: Chakma, Mara and Lai districts
      • Tripura: Tribal Areas
    • Each ADC and regional council consists of not more than 30 members.
    • Out of 30, four are nominated by the Governor and the rest through elections. The members remain in power for five years.

    The exception (Bodoland Territorial Council)

    • The Bodoland Territorial Council is an exception as it can constitute up to 46 members out of which 40 are elected.
  • Panchayat rule in India

    • The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act enacted in 1992 vests power in the Government of the respective State to endow Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to allow them function properly as institutions of self-government.
    • With the amendment of the Act, Panchayats were given ‘constitutional status’ as an institution of local self-governance for rural India.
    • The Act mandates provisions for:
      • Establishment of a three-tier structure
        • Village Panchayat
        • Panchayat Samiti or intermediate level Panchayat
        • Zilla Parishad or district level Panchayat
      • Establishment of Gram Sabhas (village level).
      • Regular elections to Panchayats every five years.
      • Proportionate seat reservation for SCs/STs.
      • Reservation for women (not less than one-third seats).
      • Constitution of the State Finance Commissions to recommend measures to improve the finances of Panchayats
    • However, the areas, predominantly inhabited by the Adivasi population, called scheduled areas, were exempted from these new amendments.
    • In 1996, the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (PESA Act), took local self-governance rules to the areas listed under the fifth schedule. 

    About PESA Act

    • Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (PESA Act) extends the provision of the Indian Constitution to formalise the three-tier Panchayati Raj system to fifth Schedule areas with certain modifications and exceptions.
  • Conclusion

    Implementation of Panchayati Raj in tribal areas will give them the right to address and resolve issues of the tribals. Furthermore, it will comfort them out of their fears around the modern, “alien” system of engagement.