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The Sixth Schedule of Ladakh

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    21st Dec, 2021

Context

A latest demand has arisen from Ladakh that the region should be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to safeguard land, employment, and cultural identity of the local population.

Background

  • On August 5, 2019, was the day on which New Delhi stripped the state of the special status it had been guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and downgraded it into two Union territories.
    • Jammu & Kashmir with legislature
    • Ladakh without legislature

India has 8 Union Territories (UTs) - Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry.

  • The newly formed Union Territory of Ladakhobserved complete shutdown to press their demand for restoration of statehood and implementation of the sixth schedule of the Constitution to safeguard their identity, culture, land and jobs.
  • People across the region are fearful of loss of land, jobs and demographic change and are living in a perpetual uncertainty.

Analysis

The region profile

  • The region extends from Karakoram Range in the northwest to the Kailash Range in the southeast, from the Tarim Basin in the north to Kangra-Mahasu Valley in the south.
  • It now shares international borders with China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Ladakh has a population of around 300,000 people made up of 52 percent Muslims and 48 percent Buddhists with most of the Muslims based in Kargil. 

What is the Sixth Schedule?

  • Passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, the Sixth Schedule under Article 244 seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal population through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC).
  • ADCs are bodiesrepresenting a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.   
  • Autonomous DistrictCouncils (ADCs) are the autonomous administrative divisions that have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.
    • 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.

Exception

The Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam is an exception with more than 40 members and the right to make laws on 39 issues.

Powers conferred to Governors

  • The governors of these states are empowered to reorganize boundaries of the tribal areas.
  • In simpler terms, she or he can choose to include or exclude any area, increase or decrease the boundaries and unite two or more autonomous districts into one.
  • They can also alter or change the names of autonomous regions without a separate legislation.  

Which areas are under the Sixth Schedule?

  • The Sixth Schedule applies to the Northeastern states of
    • Assam
    • Meghalaya
    • Mizoram (three Councils each)
    • Tripura (one Council)

Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

  • The Fifth Schedule deals with the administration of scheduled areas where the majority of the population comprises of the tribal communities.
  • Currently, the schedule is in force in 10 states of the country.
  • These states include Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Telangana

Understanding the ‘crux’ of Ladakh’s demand?

  • At the heart of the UT’s demand is power. The UT status came without a legislative Council and instead, even the existing powers of LAHDC got shifted to the Lt Governor.
  • The demand now is that the local Councils are empowered with legislative power by bringing them under the ambit of Sixth Schedule of Article 244(1) of the Constitution.
  • They demand a Bodoland-type power arrangement that protects the rights of indigenous people over their land with legislative subjects that are exclusive to local governments without interference from Central Laws.
    • A similar provision under Article 371 (A) is given to other areas such as in Nagaland in respect of the religious, social practices, customary law of the Nagas.

Can Ladakhis be described as vulnerable community?

Ladakh is known as a part of the global Buddhist civilisation or Islamic heritage that cannot be described as a ‘primitive’ or ‘vulnerable’ community

  • Diverse and rich cultural setting: 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.
    • Its Buddhist community resembles nothing like the Chakma tribes in the Northeast.
    • The Baltis and Purigs of Kargil cherish their rich Persian Shia and Sufi heritages.
  • High education level: The region had the highest literacy rate (82 percent) in J&K.
  • Social equality: A great deal of social equality exists; the women enjoy high status in every aspect of life.
  • Elite population: It has a highly westernised Buddhist and Balti elite which send children to study in India’s top-public schools.
  • National leaders: Ladakh had some famous national leaders like Kushok Bakula, P Namgyal, Kacho Sikander Khan and Munshi Habibullah.
  • Technocrats: It produced several technocrats, bureaucrats and military leaders like Sonam Norboo, AJ Kundan, Colonel Rinchen, C Phunsog and others who held important political and diplomatic positions in the country.
  • True nationalist: Ladakhis are also known to be true nationalists. The velour of Ladakh Scout Regiments is well known.

What steps are actually needed for Ladakh?

  • Heritage protection: Ladakh was once an ancient Western Himalayan Kingdom with a profound cultural backdrop. Its rich Buddhist, Balti and Dardic cultural heritage requires a much higher degree of protection.
  • Policy measure: A prudent policy step would be to consider Ladakh under the ambit of protecting the Himalayan heritage – its people, culture, environment and security.
  • National Commission: A national commission is urgently needed to review the issue as also addressing the Ladakhi demand so as to bring about a necessary law by the Parliament.
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