Context:

Recently, Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Rajya Sabha to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas.

About 6th schedule:

  • 6th schedule deals with the administration of the tribal areas in four north-eastern states of Assam,Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
    • They are treated differently by the constitution because the tribes in these states have not assimilatedmuch the life and ways of the other people in these states.
  • The tribal areas in these states have been constituted as autonomous districts, each of which has anautonomous district council consisting of 30 members. Currently, there are 10 such councils.
  • Some of the powers and functions of autonomous councils include:
  • They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forest, canal water, shifting cultivation, inheritance of property, marriage, divorce etc. These require assent of the governor.
  • They can constitute village councils or courts within their jurisdiction, for trials of suits and cases betweenthe tribes.
  • They can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roadsand so on in the district.
  • They can make regulations for the control of money lending and trading by non-tribals, but these require the assent of the governor.
  • They are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes.

Issues and Solutions

  • Lack of financial self-sufficiency: The councils are dependent on their respective state governments for fundswhich denies them the flexibility required to emerge as a vibrant institution for local development.
    • The bill proposes that Finance Commission will now recommend the financial devolution to the council.
  • Non-Representation of some tribes: It is observed that some councils are not able to represent the numerousmajor and minor tribes within their jurisdiction in 30 members of the council.
    • The bill increases the number of members in some council considering demands for the same.
  • Inadequate representation of women: There is very less participation of women in tribal administration.
    • The bill reserves at least one-third of the seats will be reserved for women in the village and municipalcouncils.
  • Need for village level bodies: The provision for village councils indicates that these councils established byADCs are envisaged to be institutions for the dispensation of justice. However, there is a need of a ‘villagecommunity body’ to harmonise with the traditional village body.
    • The bill provides for elected village municipal councils which will be empowered to prepare plans foreconomic development and social justice.
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