Context:Elections were scheduled to be held for the BTC on April 4 but were deferred indefinitely in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The council’s current term expires on April 27.
More about the news:
- Diverse opinion of political parties:
- Some political parties do not want the term to be extended. However few others want the term extended by six months or elections held soon.
- A meeting of BJP delegation:
- After a meeting with the Chief Minister of Assam recently, a BJP delegation met the Governor of Assam and sought imposition of Governor’s rule in BTAD.
- The delegation has argued that the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath would make it impossible to hold the elections in the near future.
About The Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD)
- The BTAD covers four districts of western and northern Assam.
- It falls under the Sixth Schedule area of the Constitution.
- The State’s Governor is the constitutional head of the BTAD.
- BTAD is administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
- BTC Polls are conducted by State Election Commission
- Any decision on rescheduling the polls would be taken by the Governor
- The BJP rules Assam in alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which has been ruling BTC since its creation in 2003.
Constitutional provisions for setting up of autonomous regions
- Framers of the Constitution had prescribed constitutional provisions after elaborate debate in the Constituent Assembly on the Sixth Schedule.
- One such provision is the setting up of autonomous regions
- If there are different Scheduled Tribes in an autonomous district, the Governor may, by public notification, divide the area or areas inhabited by them into autonomous regions.
What is the Sixth Schedule
The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution.
Aims: It seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal population through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC).
- The governors of these states are empowered to reorganise boundaries of the tribal areas.
- They can also alter or change the names of autonomous regions without separate legislation.
About Autonomous districts and regional councils
- Along with ADCs, the Sixth Schedule also provides for separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region.
- In all, there are 10 areas in the Northeast that are registered as autonomous districts – three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura.
- These regions are named as district council of (name of district) and regional council of (name of region).
- Each autonomous district and regional council consists of not more than 30 members, of which four are nominated by the governor and the rest via elections.
- All of them remain in power for a term of five years.
- Exception For The Bodoland Territorial Council:
- The Bodoland Territorial Council, however, is an exception as it can constitute up to 46 members out of which 40 are elected.
- Of these 40 seats,
- 35 are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes and non-tribal communities
- 5 are unreserved
- Rest 6 are nominated by the governor from underrepresented communities of the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).
ADCs empowered with civil and judicial powers
- The ADCs are empowered with civil and judicial powers, and can constitute village courts within their jurisdiction to hear trials of cases involving the tribes.
- Governors of states that fall under the Sixth Schedule specifies the jurisdiction of high courts for each of these cases.
- The councils are also empowered to make legislative laws on matters like land, forests, fisheries, social security, entertainment, public health, etc. with due approval from the governor.
- The roles of the central and state governments are restricted from the territorial jurisdiction of these autonomous regions.
- Also, Acts passed by Parliament and state legislatures may or may not be levied in these regions unless the President and the governor gives her or his approval, with or without modifications in the laws for the autonomous regions.
Who are Bodos?
- They are the earliest settlers of Assam, are an ethnic and and linguistic group which is a sub-group of the Bodo-Kachari family.
- Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6% of the state’s population.
- The Bodo people speak Bodo language, a Tibeto-Burman language recognized as one of the scheduled languages in the Indian Constitution.
- The Bodo people are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
- Traditionally, Bodos practiced Bathouism, which is the worshiping of forefathers.
- In addition to Bathouism, Bodo people also follow Hinduism and Christianity.