The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) on Wednesday wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah and Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda, recommending that Ladakh be declared a tribal area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Background

  • The NCST’s recommendation comes against the backdrop of growing demand from a predominantly tribal population and political leaders of Ladakh for according “tribal area” status to the region
  • The Commission discussed the issue of including Ladakh under the Fifth or Sixth Schedule of the Constitution at a meeting held on August 27. 
  • Later, on September 4, the NCST consulted the Home, Law and Tribal Affairs Ministries in this regard.
  • After discussing the issue in detail, the Commission decided to recommend ‘tribal area’ status for Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • The total tribal population in Ladakh region is more than 97 percent. Scheduled Tribes account for 66.8% in Leh, 73.35% in Nubra, 97.05% in Khalsti, 83.49% in Kargil, 89.96% in Sanku and 99.16% in Zanskar. The region is inhabited by following Scheduled Tribes, namely:
  1. Balti
  2. Beda
  3. Bot, Boto
  4. Brokpa, Drokpa, Dard, Shin
  5. Changpa
  6. Garra
  7. Mon
  8. Purigpa.
  • The Commission noted that prior to the creation of Union Territory of Ladakh, people in Ladakh region had certain agrarian rights including right on land which restricted people from other parts of the country to purchase or acquire land in Ladakh.
  • Similarly, the Ladakh region has several distinct cultural heritages by communities such as Drokpa, Balti and Changpa, among others, which needs to be preserved and promoted.
  • According to tribal area status to Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution will help in democratic devolution of powers, preserve and promote the distinct culture of the region, protect agrarian rights including rights on land and enhance the transfer of funds for speedy development of the region.
About Sixth Schedule
  • The Sixth Schedule provides for the administration of tribal areas after setting up the autonomous district and regional councils.
  • The Home Ministry is the central authority for declaring an area as a “tribal area”.
  • Article 244 (2) and 275 (1) provides for the administration of Tribal Areas in the States Of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram through Autonomous District and Regional Councils endowed with legislative, judicial, and executive powers.
  • The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 (2) provides for the creation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC) in an Autonomous District and Regional Councils for autonomous regions. 
  • The Autonomous District and Regional Councils were bestowed with judicial, Legislative and Executive powers to preserve their cultural identity.
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
  • It was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely
  1. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and 
  2. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19 February 2004.
  • The term of office of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge. The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister, and the Vice-Chairperson that of a Minister of State and other Members have the ranks of a Secretary to the Government of India.
Functions of the Commission
  • To investigate & Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.
  • To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs;
  • To participate and Advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
  • To submit a report to the President annually and  at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs;
  • To discharge such other functions in relation to STs as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify;
Powers of the Commission For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission is vested with powers of a civil court having authority to:
  • Summon and enforce the attendance of any person and examine on oath;
  • Discovery & production of any documents;
  • Receive evidence on affidavits;
  • Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
  • Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and
  • Any matter which President, by rule, may determine.
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