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High-Power Ladakh Committee

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    6th Jan, 2023

Context

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted a high-powered committee for the Union Territory of Ladakh in order to conserve the region’s unique culture and language.

Background

  • In 2020, the Peoples Movement for Constitutional safeguard under the sixth schedule or the Apex Body, Leh was formed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Demand for inclusion in Sixth Schedule: Since then, the civil society and political groups in Ladakh have been demanding inclusion under the sixth schedule of the Constitution to protect the land, employment, and cultural identity of Ladakh.

Details of the committee:

  • Chaired by: Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai.
  • It is a 17-member committee that includes Ladakh Lieutenant Governor.
  • Objective: The committee will discuss;
    • Measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance;
    • Ensure protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh;
    • Strategize inclusive development and discuss issues related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Councils of Leh and Kargil

About

Why was the committee formed?

  • Civil society groups in Ladakh have been demanding protection of land, resources and employment for the past three years after the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
  • The fear of big businesses and conglomerates taking away land and jobs from the local people has contributed to this demand.

What is the sixth schedule?

  • The sixth schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution protects the autonomy of tribal populations through creation of autonomous development councils which can frame laws on land, public health and agriculture.
  • As of now ten autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

As per the 2011 Census, the total population of Ladakh was 2, 74,289, and nearly 80% of them are tribals.

What is the government’s stand?

  • Government is against the call to give any special status to Ladakh, as the MHA informed a parliamentary standing committee recently that the objective for inclusion of tribal population under the sixth schedule is to ensure their overall socio-economic development, which, the UT administration has already been taking care of and that sufficient funds are being provided to Ladakh to meet its overall developmental requirements.
  • A report tabled in Rajya Sabha on December 13, 2022, quoted MHA officials, that the Ladakh administration recently increased the reservation for the Scheduled Tribes in direct recruitment from 10%to 45% which will significantly help the tribal population in their development.

 Difficulty behind Ladakh’s Inclusion:

  •  Ladakh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule would be difficult. The Constitution is very clear; the Sixth Schedule is for the Northeast.
  • For tribal areas in the rest of the country, there is the Fifth Schedule.
  • 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.
  • However, it remains the prerogative of the government; it can, if it so decides, brings a Bill to amend the Constitution for this purpose.
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