Ladakh’s demand of Sixth Schedule

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    • Recently, India’s Union Home Ministry evaded a reply on Ladakh’s inclusion under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

    Background of the issue

    • Demand of UT:
      • Buddhist-dominated Leh district had long demanded UT status because it felt neglected by the erstwhile state government, which was dominated by politicians from Kashmir and Jammu.
    • Separation from J&K:
      • On August 5, 2019, the former State of Jammu & Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh, the latter without a Legislative Assembly.

    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 fifth or sixth Schedule may be examined.

    Centre’s opinion

    • Ensuring overall development:
      • Union Home Ministry opines that the main objective of the inclusion of tribal populations under the said schedule is to ensure their overall socio-economic development, which the Union Territory’s administration “has already been taking care of since its creation”.
    • Direct recruitment:
      • It added that the Ladakh administration had recently increased the reservation for Scheduled Tribes in direct recruitment from 10% to 45%, which would help the tribal population significantly in its 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.

    Scope for Ladakh’s inclusion in Sixth Schedule

    • Notes from the other states:
      • Notably, no region outside the Northeast has been included in the Sixth Schedule. 
      • In fact, even in Manipur, which has predominantly tribal populations in some places, the autonomous councils are not included in the Sixth Schedule. 
      • Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, which are totally tribal, are also not in the Sixth Schedule.
    • Difficulty:
      • The Constitution is very clear, Sixth Schedule is for the Northeast. For tribal areas in the rest of the country, there is the Fifth Schedule.
      • So, Ladakh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule would be difficult.

    Source: TH