(The Gist of Kurukshetra) DEEPENING
GRASS ROOT DEMOCRACY IN SIXTH SCHEDULE AREAS
DEEPENING GRASS ROOT DEMOCRACY IN SIXTH SCHEDULE AREAS
Article 243M of the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution exempts application of
the provisions contained relating to PANCHAYATS in certain areas of the country.
These areas are Fifth Schedule Areas, Sixth Schedule Areas, 1996(PESA) and other
tribal areas. However, the Parliament may by law extend the provisions of Part X
of the Constitution to the Schedule Areas and tribal areas referred in clause
(I) subject to such exceptions and modifications as may be specified in the law.
In the Fifth Schedule Areas of 10 States namely Andhra Pradesh, Himachal
Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat,
Maharasthara, Telangana and Odisha, the 73rd Amendment was extended, which was
ultra vires to the Constitution. Subsequently, to rectify the lawlessness in
this context, the Government of India had constituted Bhuria Committee and on
the basis of the recommendations of this Committee, the (PESA) was enacted in
Fifth Schedule Areas of above indicated States. In this way, the 5th Schedule
Areas have come under the fold of the 73rd Amendment or in other words
Panchayati Raj a system of rural governance has been extended to these areas.
However, 73rd Amendment Act has not been extended to the 6th Schedule Areas and
other tribal areas of the country. This aspect is discussed in details here.
Sixth Schedule Areas and Other Tribal Areas: Meghalaya has been
exempted under Article 243M and covered by the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.
Some part of Mizoram has been exempted under Article 243M and some areas of the
State are covered by the provisions of the Sixth Schedule. Bodoland, North
Cachar and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam have been covered under Sixth
Schedule. The whole of Nagaland, hill area of Manipur and six districts of
Mizoram have been exempted under Article 243M and not covered under Sixth
Schedule. In fact, these areas are covered by State Laws governing Village
Councils and out of these areas only the hill areas of Manipur have District
Council. Parts of the hill district of Darjeeling, in West Bengal, covered by
the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council have been exempted under Article 234M of the
Existing Practices of Governance: Sixth Schedule areas and other
tribal areas exempted under Article 243M of the Constitution contain provisions
relating to the administration of the tribal areas in the States of Assam,
Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and West Bengal. There are
Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) and Autonomous Regional Councils (ARCs)in
these areas which have a long tradition of self-management systems including
issues related to land, forest, shifting cultivation, village or town
administration including village or town police and public health and
sanitation, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce and social customs.
The main issue with regard to traditional governance in these areas is the lack
of deepened decentralised governance. For instance, Village Councils do not
exist in Council areas of Assam and Meghalaya. In Nagaland and Manipur, the
Village Countils are often headed by traditional Village Chiefs. Elections to
the District Councils of Manipur have not been held for decades. The Government
has the powers to extend the tenure of Councils and also supersede them which
reduce the powers of the Councils. Parallel structures exist at the village
level in Nagaland which means the existence of two bodies in the Village. While
elections are being conducted through State Election Commission in most of the
States, neither this has been mandated nor has the conduct of elections prior to
the end of tenure been prescribed under Law.
In Tripura, the District Council has too much control over the Village
Committee and this is against the spirit of independent rural self management
government system. In fact, the entire philosophy of the Sixth Schedule of the
Constitution is aimed at protection of tribal areas and their interests, by
constitutionally mandating district or regional local self government
institutions for them and by entrusting the twin task of protecting tribal
culture and customs and undertaking developmental tasks for them. But in
practice, these objectives have not been reaIised fully in practice. Although
theoretically, the powers of a District Council appear more than that are given
to the equivalent institution of the District Panchayat in areas covered by the
Part IX of the Constitution, these institutions are not well empowered and
equipped to handle the issues of the tribes with requisite autonomy.
Seeing the importance of deepening democracy in Schedule areas, it is
appropriate to incorporate the principles of decentralised governance within the
legal framework set up for each State and each region in the States. The 2nd
Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) in its Seventh Report entitled ’Capacity
Building for Conflict Resolution’ has dealt specially with ’Conflicts in the
North East’ focused on : (i) Autonomous District Councils in the Sixth Schedule
areas (ii) Village-level seIf-governance therein and (iii) Tribe-specific
Councils in Assam.
Demand for Greater Autonomy: AS per the Constitution, Panchayats are
mandated to prepare plan for economic development and social justice including
29 subjects listed in the 11th Schedule of the Constitution. Though ADCs have
various regulatory powers, subject to the State control, but they would be more
advantageous with respect to planning and developmental activities if 73rd
Amendment is extended to these areas because ADCs depend on the State
Governments for budget requirement. Further, powers of ADCs are not similar in
both 6th Schedule area and other areas. For instance, ADCs in Manipur are weak
as compared to ADCs in the 6th Schedule areas because the former depend entirely
on the state for financial support in taking up developmental activities.
Although tribal system is egalitarian in nature, even then people's
participation particularly women is negligible. For instance, in Mizoram,
representation of women in majority of the District and Village Councils is
below 10 per cent. Besides, women are not only entitled to participate in the
decision making as per the aged old ’Ao’ tradition but they cannot be a member
of the Village Putu Menden, Gaon Bura traditional systems. In contrast, the 73rd
Amendment to the Constitution gives reservation of one-third for the posts of
members and chairperson at all levels of Panchayats in the country. Experience
shows that over a one-fourth century of the functioning of Panchayats women have
been engaged in rural governance through the institutions of Panchayats and
there are umpteen success stories they have made in their working.
C. Nunthara conducted a study of three VCs in Mizoram in 2007 and among
others, the study concluded that people are not satisfied with the existing
system of governance as it is driven by bureaucracy. ”They overwhelmingly
support the introduction of Panchayati Raj system as in other states”, the study
There are other salient features like elections of Panchayats within six
months if dissolved, constitution of State Finance Commission for strengthening
financial base of the Panchayats, State Election Commission to conduct elections
of Panchayats and preparation of plans for economic development with social
justice including 29 subjects listed in the 11th Schedule of the 73rd Amendment
Act. Whenever these features are integrated with existing traditional system it
would establish de facto rural government in these areas and such system would
be a glorious example for the country and the world.
Towards Decentralised Democracy: From the above discussion it emerges
that the North-Eastern States have different rural governance structure as
compared to rest of the country. Keeping this in view, the Ministry of
Panchayati Raj has been engaged in strengthening grassroots democracy in this
region of the country. Following are some efforts toward this end.
- A consultation process has been initiated with concerned States and
Ministries of Government of India.
- A inter-ministerial team from Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Home
Affairs, Tribal Affairs and Development of North Eastern Region has been
visiting these States since August 2010. Draft amendments to laws of ADCs
and VCs were made to deepen the process of democracy in these states.
Further, laws for forming VCs have also been drafted for adoption in areas
where neither VCs nor Gram Panchayat exists. These draft laws and these
draft amendments broadly address : (i) Recognition of Gram Sabha and Ward
Sabha, make Village Councils accountable to Gram Sabha,(ii) reservation for
women (iii), specific functions of Village Councils and Gram Sabha under the
law, (iv) regular elections through independent State Election Commission
(v), regular meeting of Gram Sabha (vi), rationalization of control of State
Government over District and Village Councils, and (vii) constitution of
State Finance Commissions.
- As an outcome of this initiative and also the visit of the Additional
Secretary, MoPR to the three Autonomous District Councils of Mizoram namely
Chakma, Lai and Mara, the Councils have amended their laws relating to
Village Council and District Council to include the following provisions:
- A term of five years instead of three years.
- Conduct of election through State Election Commission
- Reservation for at least one seat in every Village Council for women.
- Transparency in supersession.
- Mandatory eIection in case of supersession within six months.
- Accountability of Village Councils to Gram Sabha, and functions of Gram
Sabha specified under Law.
- Authorization of State Finance Commission to recommend devolution of
funds to District Council and Village Council.
- Two seats of the nominated seats of the District Council shall be for
In August 2012, representatives from Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC)
and North Cacher Hills District Councils (Dima Hasao) (NCHDC) have met the then
Panchayati Raj & Tribal Affairs Minister and expressed the willingness to
legislate for elected village councils in line with the principles of Panchayati
Raj. The government at the centre should continue this process of interaction
for deepening grassroots democracy in these areas.
Conclusion: North-Eastern States have different rural governance
structures in the form of ADCs , Dcs and VCs. However, with some exception, they
are not upto the expectations of the people of region. There is no effective
people's participation in socioeconomic development of the region. Although the
Central Government has made some efforts towards deepening democracy in the
region, more concerted efforts are required to be made in this regard. The
present government in the Centre is in an advantageous position in the Region to
put into the practice its popular slogan ’sabkasaathsabakavikas’. The PESA
legislation is an important piece of legislation blending traditional practices
of tribal with developmental activities in a meaningful way. The experience of
the functioning of the PESA in the last two decades can provide guidance in
blending traditions with development in Sixth Schedule areas and other tribal
areas. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj must address this and make more efforts in
extending deepened decentralized democracy through Panchayati Raj system in
Sixth Schedule areas and other tribal areas of North East.