From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Autonomous districts, Sixth Schedule
Mains level : Abrogation of Art. 370 and Ladakh
A ruling party MP from Ladakh has demanded that the region be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to safeguard land, employment, and cultural identity of the local population.
What is the Sixth Schedule?
- The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 provides for the formation of autonomous administrative divisions — Autonomous District Councils (ADCs).
- ADCs have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.
- The Sixth Schedule applies to the NE states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram (three Councils each), and Tripura (one Council).
Composition of ADCs
- ADCs have up to 30 members with a term of five years.
- It 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.
- The Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam is an exception with more than 40 members and the right to make laws on 39 issues.
Why does Ladakh want to be part of the Sixth Schedule?
- Local aspirations: There was much enthusiasm initially, mostly in Leh, after the repeal of Art. 370 which created two new UTs.
- Negligence in erstwhile J&K state: Buddhist-dominated Leh district had long demanded UT status because it felt neglected by the erstwhile state government.
- Denial of Legislature: The enthusiasm waned as it was understood that while the UT of J&K would have a legislature, the UT of Ladakh would not.
- Inadequate representation: The administration of the region is now completely in the hands of bureaucrats with only 1 MP.
- New domicile criteria: The changed domicile policy in Jammu and Kashmir has raised fears in the region about its own land, employment, demography, and cultural identity.
- Statehood demands: A coalition of social, religious, and political representatives in Leh and Kargil has demanded full statehood for Ladakh.
Cultural significance of Ladakh
- Ladakh is historically perceived as a cosmopolitan region with centuries of multiple cultural settings.
- It was an Asian pivot – the people here traversed diverse cultural boundaries and engaged with ideas.
Can Ladakh be included in Sixth Schedule?
- NCST Recommends: In September 2019, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule.
- Distinct culture: It was predominantly tribal (more than 97%), people from other parts of the country had been restricted from purchasing or acquiring land there, and its distinct cultural heritage needed preservation.
- Fifth schedule as an alternative: 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.
- Exclusive provision for NE: Notably, no region outside the Northeast has been included in the Sixth Schedule.
- Requires Constitutional Amendment: It remains the prerogative of the government. For this, a constitutional amendment is required.
Government’s response in this regard
- The Centre woke up to the anxieties of the region when, a year after the abrogation of Article 370, when all political parties announced a boycott of the LAHDC-Leh elections.
- The political factions in Ladakh were promised “Sixth Schedule-like” protections by the Home Minister.
- The MHA has in Jan announced that a committee under then MoS Home G Kishan Reddy would be formed to address the issues related to language of Ladakh, culture of Ladakh and conservation of land in Ladakh.
- It had assured representatives of Kargil and Leh that the government was committed to look into their concerns.
Try this question from CSP 2015:
Q.The provisions in Fifth Schedule and Sixth Schedule in the Constitution of India are made in order to-
(a) protect the interests of Scheduled Tribes
(b) determine the boundaries between States
(c) determine the powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats
(d) protect the interests of all the border States
Post your answers here.