High-Powered Committee on Ladakh

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    • Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted a high-powered committee for the Union Territory of Ladakh chaired by the Minister of State for Home Affairs.

    Key Points

    • Need of the Committee: 
      • Civil society groups in Ladakh have been demanding protection of land, resources and employment for the past three years after the Article 370 was struck down.
      • The fear of big businesses and conglomerates taking away land and jobs from the local people have contributed to this demand.
    • Functions: 
      • It will discuss measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance; 
      • Ensure protection of land
      • Employment for the people of Ladakh; 
      • Strategise inclusive development
      • Discuss issues related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Councils of Leh and Kargil.

    Ladakh’s demand of Sixth Schedule

    • About:
      • After its special status was removed, several political groups in Ladakh have been demanding that land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh, should be protected under the Sixth Schedule.
    • Amending LAHDC Act:
      • Ladakh’s only member in the Lok Sabha also demanded constitutional safeguards by amending the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Council (LAHDC) Act for the protection of land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule.
    • Other issues faced by Ladakh:
      • No decentralisation of power:
        • There had been four MLAs from the region in the erstwhile J&K Assembly; the administration of the region is now completely in the hands of bureaucrats. 
        • To many in Ladakh, the government now looks even more distant than Srinagar. 
      • Changed domicile policy in Jammu and Kashmir: 
        • Also, the changed domicile policy in Jammu and Kashmir has raised fears in the region about its own land, employment, demography, and cultural identity.
      • Limited Finances:
        • The UT has two Hill councils in Leh and Kargil, but neither is under the Sixth Schedule. 
        • Their powers are limited to collection of some local taxes such as parking fees and allotment and use of land vested by the Centre.
    • Recommendation of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes:
      • In September 2019, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule. 
        • The Commission took note of the fact that the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh is predominantly a tribal region in the country.
    • Report highlights of the Parliamentary Standing Committee:
      • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs recently tabled a report in the Rajya Sabha.
      • The report stated that, according to the 2011 Census, the tribal population in the Union Territory of Ladakh is 2,18,355, that is 79.61% of the total population of 2,74,289. 
    • Special Status:
      • The committee recommended that special status may be granted to the Union Territory of Ladakh considering the developmental requirements of the tribal population. 
    • Examining the possibility of fifth or sixth Schedule: 
      • The Committee further recommends that the possibility of including Ladakh in the fifth or sixth Schedule may be examined.

    Centre’s opinion

    • Centre is not keen to give any special status to Ladakh stating that the objective for inclusion of tribal population under the sixth schedule is to ensure their overall socio-economic development, which:
      • The UT administration has already been taking care of and 
      • Sufficient funds are being provided to Ladakh to meet its overall developmental requirements. 
      • The Ladakh administration recently increased the reservation for the Scheduled Tribes in direct recruitment from 10% to 45% which will significantly help the tribal population in their development.

    More about the Sixth Schedule

    • What is the Sixth Schedule?
      • The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 provides for the formation of autonomous administrative divisions — Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) — that have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.
    • Application:
      • The Sixth Schedule applies to the Northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram (three Councils each), and Tripura (one Council).
    • About ADCs:
      • ADCs have up to 30 members with a term of five years.
      • They can make laws, rules and regulations with regard to land, forest, water, agriculture, village councils, health, sanitation, village- and town-level policing, inheritance, marriage and divorce, social customs and mining, etc. 
    • Exception:
      • The Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam is an exception with more than 40 members and the right to make laws on 39 issues.

    Source: TH