Aiming to woo the tribal population in the Northeast ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the NDA government on Wednesday decided to grant more power and funds to 10 autonomous councils in the region.
The Union Cabinet approved a “landmark” constitutional amendment to increase the powers of the autonomous councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the Northeast.
The Finance Commission will be mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to them, an official statement said.
The amendment also provides for transfer of additional 30 subjects including departments of Public Works, Forests, Public Health Engineering, Health and Family Welfare, Urban Development and Food and Civil Supply to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council in Assam.
“The cabinet approves landmark amendment to Article 280 and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The most important part of these amendments is that these will significantly improve the financial resources and powers of the autonomous districts councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, fulfilling longstanding aspirations of the tribal population in these Northeastern states,” the statement read.
A bill in this regard is expected to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament, a home ministry official said.
“This will be a game changer, as it will substantially enhance the funds available to these local government institutions for undertaking development works in these tribal areas,” the official said.
The proposed amendments provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grassroots level.
The village councils will be empowered to prepare plans for economic development and social justice including those related to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.
At least one-third of the seats will be reserved for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura and at least two of the nominated members in all autonomous councils in the North East Sixth Schedule areas resulting in empowerment of women.
There will be State Election Commissions for holding elections to the autonomous councils, village and municipal councils in the areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.
There will be a provision for anti-defection too.
Meghalaya has for the time being kept out of the purview of the provision for elected village and municipal councils and one-third reservations for women.
The amendments will fulfil the commitments made under tripartite Memorandum of Settlements signed by Government of India, governments of Assam and Meghalaya, United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and Achik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC).
The amendments propose to rename the existing autonomous councils as Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council (KAATC), Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council (DHATC), Garo Hills Autonomous Territorial Council (GHATC), Khasi Hills Autonomous Territorial Council (KHATC), Jaintia Hills Autonomous Territorial Council (JHATC) and Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous Territorial Council (TTAATC) as the present jurisdiction of these councils extend to more than one districts.
There will also be increase in seats in KAATC (from 30 to 50 seats), DHATC (30 to 40 seats), GHATC (30 to 42), KHATC (30 to 40) and JHATC (30 to 34).