TODAY -

Rejoinder to Lamcha Chongloi's piece on
'Article 224: Mother of Sixth Schedule and Brief Stories of her daughters'

SK Singh *



The other day on the 9th November issue of the Peoples’ Chronicle, we stumbled on/upon an article titled as quoted above. The general lamentation highlighted towards the end of your article is about the lack of development in the hill areas vis-ŕ-vis, the valley and the need for special provisions to make up the alleged shortcomings.

This sentiment is understandable and more so for the more enlightened and informed citizens. A line or two it is hoped, would soften the apparent hurt largely in the areas of physical infrastructures like roads, power, irrigation, transport to name a few and social ones like, health, education, water, housing etc.; the gap is real and understandably couldn’t be matched between the tiny valley and the super-vast hills.

In the language of the former Planning Commission, now Niti Ayog, the culprit is the sheer size of the area to be developed and not the actors involved nor the principle adopted.

The hill areas this day, say, at 90% of the geographical area (with 10% for the valley), houses just around 33% those days to, may be around 36% now of the total state population. The Government of India allocates funds for development largely on the basis of population not on geographical area except for specific program or projects, say like, Ukhrul-Jessami road or Mao Potato Farm or the like where sizeable funds are specifically earmarked.

Understandably the less than 40% of the annual funds released by the Government of India have to be sparsely distributed across a vast 90% area of the state. Naturally therefore, benefits area wise has to be pitifully small.

The GOI however is considerate; they earmark special funds specifically for these hill areas over and above allocated under the normal annual plans. Paradoxically, these second category funds in their crores over the years are systematically utilized, to be more appropriate, misused by those in charge of the hill areas.

The impact of these wrong doings is the ones you are trying to project. These funds are ‘earmarked’ , meaning, it cannot be diverted to the valley areas under any circumstances except with the prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Niti Ayog.

At the expense of repetition, the benefit of this ‘special fund’, is pocked by a few all belonging to the vast hill areas.

Now coming to the particular issue of Article 224 of the Constitution and attempting to attract the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution as mentioned by you, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the specific article should be 244(2) and not 224 if you want to write concerning the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India. Articles 244(2) and Article 275(1) are provisions as to the Administration of Tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

We are also amazed when you mentioned of Article 224 for appointment of Judges and Additional Judges and 224(A) regarding appointments of retired judges at sittings of high courts which are all irrelevant to the 5th Schedule and the Sixth schedule or any Provision as to the administration of tribal areas.

However your claim to be familiar with the Constitution of India as Secretary YAS, All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur, you may like to justify your ‘bold’ Article 224 if it is connected with Sixth Schedule and brief stories of her daughters.

Before we proceed further regarding your own predicament about Autonomous District Councils, Article 371C, Naga Framework Agreement and Conditions of Tribals in Manipur etc. we suggest you to comprehend the following paras if the Sixth Schedule is to be implemented in Manipur according to the Constitution of India.

In the areas of ‘Administration of Schedule areas and Tribal areas’, according to Article 244(1) of the Constitution , the provisions of the 5th Schedule shall apply to the administration and control of the Scheduled areas and Schedule Tribes in any state, other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Article 244(2) prescribes that the provisions of the Sixth Schedule shall apply to the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

It is therefore crystal clear without any aspersion that there was no mention of any word in the Constitution of India to implement the provisions of the Sixth Schedule in the state of Manipur. In other words, it is the Fifth Schedule that is to be implemented in Manipur. There cannot be any ambiguity in this aspect and less of confusion.

Regarding your reference to the Autonomous District Councils (ADC) as in force in Manipur, you are in order to a certain extent that there cannot be Autonomous /Regional Councils in the state where Sixth Schedule is not implemented. Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) should be established or operational according to the Provisions of the Fifth Schedule.

If ADC is created it is concealing the material facts of giving away Sixth Schedule to the tribes and that would amount to diminishing if not forfeiting, the rights of the valley people. It is not to conceal Article 371C but a secret ploy to support it and all Naga Accord is less dangerous than the Sixth Schedule for the major community, the Meiteis.

Apart from the several facilities and amenities enjoyed by the tribal brethren this day, we may recall some of the inherent powers in the event of implementation of the Sixth Schedule in the state.

Some of the major impacts are:-
i) Allotment, occupation or use or setting apart of land,
ii) Management of any forest not being a reserved forest,
iii) Use of any canal or water course for the purpose of agriculture,
iv) Regulation of the practice of jhum or other forms of shifting cultivation,
v) The establishment of village and town committees, councils and their powers.
vi) Any other matter regarding village and town administration,
vii) Appointment of or succession of Chiefs and leaders,
viii) Inheritance of property,
ix) Marriage and divorce,
x) Social customs etc.

In short, implementation of the Sixth schedule amounts of forming a Main Government within a Skeleton government during the transitory period to form a full fledged government within a short period like in Meghalaya and Mizoram. In case of Manipur when Naga and Kuki states are formed, the remaining barely 3 to 4% land holdings of the Meiteis will cease to exist.

The provisions of the Sixth comprise self-contained code for the governance of tribal areas. It is to be noted that para 21 of the Sixth Schedule empowers the Parliament to make any changes in the provisions of the Sixth Schedule without going through the process under Art 368.

Under Art 244A (1), notwithstanding anything in this constitution, Parliament may, by law, formed within the state of Assam am autonomous state comprising (whether wholly or in part), all or any part of the tribal areas specified in Part I of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule. In case of Manipur, if Naga area and Kuki area are eliminated, Manipur may not become even an UT.

Under Art 244 A, it was inserted by the Constitution (22nd Amendment) Act, 1969 to provide for the constitutional foundation for the creation of an autonomous state within the state of Assam to meet the demands of the tribes for a separate state, like in the case of Meghalaya and Mizoram.

In the backdrop of aforementioned discussion, it is only an intention to highlight some of the direct and indirect ramifications in the event of implementing the Sixth Schedule in Manipur. This is only an academic exercise without any intention to hurt the sentiments of our brethrens, or anybody, or groups or organizations and in particular Mr Lamcha Chongloi in whatever way it may be seen. Constructive suggestions would be most welcome.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 14 , 2019.



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