Dialogue July-September 2005 , Volume 7 No. 1
Autonomous District Councils and Panchayati Raj Insitutions in North-East India
North-East India, home to numerous diverse ethnic groups and located
strategically with borders with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, has seen
much violence and bloodshed over the past few decades. These include
insurgencies in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram and growth of
militant groups in Meghalaya. In addition there are conflicts and confrontations
over land use and control as well as issues of language, identity formation,
demographic change and minority and majoritarian relations. Alienation, mis-governance
and corruption as well as underdevelopment are common frustrations in the region
which is one of the richest regions in terms of natural and mineral resources in
To tackle the problems of this
unique area and safeguard the democratic traditions and cultural diversity of
its people, the framers of the Constitution conceived of the instrument of
tribal self-rule. This stands embodied in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian
Constitution. This Schedule was drafted by a Sub-Committee on North-East
Frontier (Assam Tribal and Excluded Areas) of the Constituent Assembly headed by
Gopinath Bardoloi, the then Premier of Assam. The effort was to accommodate the
collective aspirations of tribal communities within the broader framework of a
democratic political system characterised by centralised powers, in a situation
characterised by a mix of apprehension, confusion and hope in the days
immediately preceding the adoption of the Indian Constitution.
non-Sixth Schedule States in the North-East where 73rd and 74th amendments (Panchayati
Raj Institutions) have been implemented are Assam (barring Karbi Anglong
Autonomous District Council and NC Hills Autonomous District Council), Manipur,
Tripura (barring Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council), Arunachal
Pradesh and Sikkim.
ancient, medieval and modern period of Indian history, the growth of Panchayats
had ups and downs. The Mayo’s Resolution of 1870 gave impetus to the
development of local institutions by enlarging their powers and
responsibilities. In 1882 Lord Ripon provided democratic framework to these
institutions. In 1907 the Royal Commission on Decentralisation was established
which encouraged the ‘Local Self Government’. Thereafter, came a series of
efforts in the form of committee, commission and Act. (The Govt. of India Act,
1911; the Govt. of India Act, 1935). However, the colonial rulers could not
were included in Article 40 under the Directive Principles of the Constitution
of India. The Post- independence phase of Panchayat Raj is marked with
significant developments. On the recommendation of the G.V.K. Rao (1985) and L.M
Shinghvi (1986) committees, the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1989 introduced a
Bill for amending the constitution for giving constitutional status to
Panchayats, But he failed to pass the Bill. It was P.V Narasimha Rao Government
who could amend the constitution in 1992 by introducing 73rd Amendment to the
constitution alongwith the Nagarpalika 74th Amendment Act. The Panchayati Raj
institution then became a constitutional machinery for rural governance in
tribal dominated states under 5th and 6th schedules of the Constitution were,
however, given option either to introduce Panchayati Raj institutions or to
continue with their traditional self-government institutions. All the states of
India including 5th and 6th schedule states except Jammu & Kashmir,
Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram amended their Panchayati Raj Act to accommodate
the provisions of the 73rd Amendment Act.
Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 mandates provisions for:
1) Establishment of a three-tier structure (Village Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti or intermediate level Panchayat and Zilla Parishad or district level Panchayat).
2) Establishment of Gram Sabhas at the village level. Regular elections to Panchayats every five years.
3) Proportionate seat reservation for SCs/STs.
4) Reservation of not less than 1/3 seats for women.
5) Constitution of State Finance Commissions to recommended measures to improve the finances of Panchayats.
The Constitution (73rd Amendment)
Act, 1992 vests power in the State Government to endow Panchayats with such
powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as
institutions of self-government such as: Preparation of plans and their
execution for economic development and social justice in relation to 29 subjects
listed in the XI schedule of the Constitution. Authority to Panchayat to levy,
collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees. Transfer of taxes,
duties, tolls and fees collected by the States to Panchayats.
The North -East India consists of
eight states - Assam. Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagland,
Tripura and Sikkim covering more than eight percent of the total geographical
area and 4 percent of the total population of the country. A large part of the
North - East India is governed by the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian
Constitution. The Panchayats (Extension to the schedule areas ) Act, 1996
extends the 73rd Amendment: to the Fifth Schedule areas. Three states viz.
Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya are exempted from the purview of the 73rd
The Sixth Schedule envisages
establishment of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs). These councils have been
given Legislative, Administrative and Judicial powers under the Sixth Schedule.
No law of the Centre or the State in respect of the legislative powers conferred
on the Autonomous District Councils could be extended to those areas without
their prior approval. The district councils are also empowered to constitute
Village councils and also Village courts.
While the ADCs have the advantage
of legislative powers which the Panchayats do not have, the Councils unlike
Panchayats do not have provision for reservation for women, and powers such as
social forestry management.
Articles 244(2) and 275(1) -
Sixth Schedule - Provisions for administration of Tribal Areas in the States of:
North Cachar Hills District Council and The Karbi Anglong District Council.
Elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) also formed under Sixth
Schedule have been held on May 13. Results are yet to be declared.
Khasi Hills District Council, Jaintia
Hills District Council and Garo Hills District Council.
Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
The Chakma District Council, The Mara District Council and The Lai District
District Councils comprise of 30 members for a term of five years. The Governor
of the state is empowered to nominate not more than four members to the Council
while the others are elected on the basis of adult suffrage. The Chief Executive
Member (CEM), the Chairman and the deputy Chairman of the Council (equivalent of
Speaker and Deputy Speaker) are elected from the members and the CEM selects the
other executive members. There are different internal rules for different
Autonomous District Councils. In some councils like Mara in Mizoram, the
electorate are eligible adults (anyone above 18 years) but in others like Karbi
Anglong right of access to traditional lands and length of stay in the region
are regarded as as a qualifying criteria for being included in the voters list
for the ADCs.
Sixth Schedule contains provisions as to the administration of tribal areas in
the state of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The aim of the Sixth
Schedule was to protect hill and other tribal communities from the control and
power of the groups and the plains. The process of protection began with the
formation of the first District Councils in Assam, as far back as 1951. The
Sixth Schedule provisions are regarded as a mini-Constitution within the main
Constitution but the whole Schedule needs a close look to remove flaws,
contradictions and shortcomings. Earlier, Arunachal Pradesh (earlier known as
North-Eastern Frontier Agency) was also part of the Sixth Schedule and
administered by the Governor of Assam as the agent of the President.
North-East with its large number of tribal groups and newly emerging educated
elites has a peculiar political history. Most of these communities had
self-governing village councils and tribal chiefdoms even during late British
period. Nation and state formation was absent and even in the most advanced area
of the region, then Assam, the economy was run by the British. But the effort
should be to give all States the opportunities provided by the 73rd and 74th
Constitutional Amendments. This should be done by safeguarding their traditions,
without tampering with their essential rights and giving each state the chance
ton use its own nomenclature for such systems of governance, with local
Over the past decades, the
systems of local-governance promoted under the Sixth Schedule have been seeking
to guarantee political dominance for backward groups, better local governance at
the community level, better economic development and ethnic security for those
who feel threatened by large scale influx of illegal migrants and even shelters
from other parts of India. The Sixth Schedule provisions are regarded as a
mini-Constitution within the main Constitution but the whole Schedule needs a
close look to remove flaws, contradictions and shortcomings.There is a long list
of subjects and powers as far as District Councils in the four states under the
Sixth Schedule under Articles 244 (2) and 275 (I). The list includes allotment,
occupation or use, or setting apart, of land, the regulation of jhum (shifting
cultivation), establishment of village or town committees or councils and their
powers as well as administration, flood control, trade and commerce, town and
Historically Assam had a mosaic
of tribal and non-tribal institutions. It was principally the system prevailing
under the Ahoms which provided the background to the evolution of Panchayati Raj
Institutions in the state.
The promulgation of the Assam
Local Self-Government Act, 1915 brought about a change of approach. The act
provided for the establishment of the Village Panchayat, for the first time on a
formal and legal basis. It also provided for an elective non-official majority
in the Panchayat and for the election of non-Officials as Chairpersons and
Vice-chairpersons. The act delegated powers and functions to the Village
authorities relating to Village sanitation and village works, etc. In 1926
another act was passed as a Panchayat Act because of the failure of the
Panchayat scheme under the 1915 Act. The functions of the Village authority
under the act of 1926 were listed as water supply, medical relief and
sanitation. However, Panchayat institutions under the British proved to be a
failure, because these measurers were more of gestures rather than efforts to
genuinely empower the local bodies.
Post Independence Period
In the post-independence period,
Assam was one of the pioneering states to introduce Panchayati Raj by
enacting Assam Panchayati Raj Act, 1948. It provided for the division of rural
Assam into Panchayat areas, with each area consisting of a number of villages
and each village having a primary Panchayat. All adults were voters. The act
provided that primary Panchayats would have executive bodies. This was a notable
improvement on the earlier position.
recommendation of Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, the Panchayati Rai system was
introduced in the country and Assam was one of the states which framed a new
Panchayati Raj Act, 1959, replacing the earlier Act, and a three-tier Panchayati
system consisting of the Gram Panchayat at the Village level, Anchalic Panchayat
at the intermediate level (co-terminus with the CD block) and Mahkuma Parishad
at the Taluka or Sub-divisional level were constituted.
Assam Panchayati Raj Act only covered the plain districts of the state and the
Hill Autonomous Districts and villages located in the tea garden areas were
excluded from the purview of the Act. The act of 1959, amended in 1964, was
repealed after the adoption of the Assam Panchayati Raj Act, 1972. Through this
Act, the PR system in Assam was reverted back to the two-tier system, the Goan
Panchayat (GP) at the village level with the population size ranging from
15,000-20,000 and Mahkum Parishad (MP) at the apex level. The act also brought
under its coverage the villages located in the Tea-garden areas.
state government once again introduced a new Act in 1986 replacing the 1972 Act.
The new Act became operative with effect from 5th September 1990 only. With this
new act the state again reverted to a three-tier set up - Gaon Panchayat with
6000 - 10,000 Population; Anchalik Panchayat (at the block level) and Mahkuma
Parishad at the sub-divisional level. In February 1992, the first elections
under the act of 1986 were held. For the earlier elections, the electoral rolls
of the Assam Legislative assembly had served as the voters list for Gaon
Panchayat and Mahkuma Parsihads. Due to various reasons, most importantly, the
controversy over an acceptable electoral roll in the wake of the movement
against the presence of foreign nationals in Assam, Panchayat elections had been
stalled for more than a decade.
Following the 73rd Amendment, the
Assam Government enacted the Panchayat Act, 1994 which covers almost all the
features of the 73rd Amendment. The PR system continues to be the three-tier
with a modification i.e. in place of Mahkuma Parishad there shall be Zilla
Parishad at the District level. The reservation for women was increased from 30
% (as per the 1986 Act) to 33.3 percent in the 1994 Act. Reservation for the SCS/STs
in non Autonomous district council (ADC) area shall be in proportion to their
Act provides all the 29 items as per the eleventh schedule to be transferred to
PRIs. At the Gaon Panchayat and Anchalik Panchayat levels there shall be three
standing committees. The three standing committees at the GP level shall be -
a). Development Committee; b). Social Justice Committee; and c). Social Welfare
Committee. At AP level, the three committees shall be a). General Standing
Committee; b). Finance, Audit and Planning Committee; and c). Social Justice
Committee. The Zilla Parishad shall have four Committees a). General Standing
Committees; b). Financial and Audit Committee; c). Social Justice Committee; and
d). Planning and Development Committee. After a long pending Panchayat election
was held in 2002 and Panchayat has been constituted all over the state except in
the Hill Autonomous District Council Areas.
Autonomous District Councils of Assam
division of the composite state of Assam led to the redrawing of new
administrative boundaries. The North Cachar Hills sub-division of the United
Mikir and Cachar Hills district was upgraded to district in 1970. The Mikir
Hills District section was renamed as Karbi Anglong in 1976. Both districts have
Autonomous Councils. These two Councils are much more powerful than their
counterparts in other states of the region after an MoU was signed between State
government and Autonomous State Demand Committee in the presence of Union Home
Bodo Tribal Council (BTC) was constituted under Sixth Schedule as a result of
the tripartite accord between the Centre, Assam government and Bodo Liberation
Tigers (BLT) in February 2003. The ceasefire agreement between the Centre, Assam
government and National Democratic Front of Bodoland on May 24, 2005 is expected
to strengthen the Council and usher in peace in the border state. Apart from the
Kokrajhar district, three new district have been created in the Bodoland
Territorial Area Distrcit - Udalguri, Bagsa and Chirang. Thirtynine Departments
have already been transferred to BTC by the State government.
Elections to BTC were held in
May, 2005. All the 38 members of the newly created Bodoland Territorial Council
(BTC) took oath of office on June 2, 2005, heralding a new chapter in the Bodo
political history. In the 46-member council, 30 are reserved for Scheduled
Tribes, 5 for non-tribal communities, 5 open for all communities and 6 to be
nominated by Governor of Assam from the unrepresented communities of BTC area of
which atleast two should be women. Elections to two remaining seats will be held
Under the Karbi Anglong
Autonomous District Council; there are thirty subjects including industry,
Forest, Agriculture, PWD, Education, Cooperative, Health and Family Welfare,
Irrigation, Town and Country Planning, Excise and Finance including Sales Tax,
excise and professional tax etc.
Other Councils of Assam
The Mishing Autonomous Council
Act, 1995 provides that there shall be a village council for each block of
villages or village having 50 per cent or more Mishing population. The other two
Acts - Tiwa Autonomous Council Act, 1995 and the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council
Act, 1995 also stipulated similar ethnic criterion in favour of respective
Arunachal Pradesh was created out
of the frontier tribal areas of Assam. It was formerly known as North-East
Frontier Agency (NEFA). It was made an union territory in 1972 and given its
present name - Arunachal Pradesh (Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains) . In 1987, it
became a state. The state is surrounded on three sides by the international
border with Bhutan to the west, China to the north and Burma to the east and
Assam to the South. It is the only hill state in North-Eastern Region which
introduced a Panchayat system as early as in 1969, under the NEFA Panchayati Raj
The state has 26 tribes including
Adi, Nishi, Apatani, Tagin, Mishimi, Khampti, Nocte, Wancho, Tangsha, Singpho,
Monpa, Sherdukpen and Aka and nearly 126 sub-tribes. Traditionally, the tribal
people had been managing their affairs through Village Councils, certain tribes
even developed into some sort of Anchal councils (for example in Bango Kebang
and the Bogum Bokang Kebang of the Adis) operating above the Village level.
Under the NEFA Panchayati Raj Regulation 1967, a three-tier structure was
constituted on 2nd October 1968. It comprised Gram Panchayats at the Village
level, Anchal Samities at the anchal level and Zilla Parishad at district level.
Gram Panchayat consisted of one to ten members directly elected by the
villagers. Each Gram Panchayat was to have a minimum of three hundred electors.
There was no provision for a Chairman of a Gram Panchayat. Each Gram Panchayat
in the Anchal elected one of its members to the Anchal Samiti, which had a
maximum of twenty-five members. These members elect their vice- president from
amongst themselves. Besides the elected members, the Anchal Samiti could have a
maximum of five members nominated by the Deputy Commissioner from among the
tribes not represented by the elected members. The Deputy Commissioner of the
district could appoint the Sub-divisional Officer or any other Officer of the
same rank as the President of the Anchal Samiti, and another Junior Officer, not
below the rank of a circle Officer, as its executive Officer.
Zilla Parshads consisted of all the Vice -Presidents of the Anchal samities, one
elected representative each from the Anchal Samities and not more than six
members nominated by the Deputy Commissioner of the district form among the
tribes who have not secured representation in the Zilla Parishad. The Deputy
Commissioner of the District is the ex-officio Chairman of the Zilla Parishad.
The term of Office of the panchayat were three years. The Zilla Parishad was
mainly an advisory body and had no executive function.
view of the dominant position that officials continued to occupy in the
Panchayati Raj bodies at all the three levels and the influence they exercised
in these councils, it would be unrealistic to call them self-governing
institutions in the real sense of the term. Arunachal Pradesh has a population
below twenty lakh. Therefore, it had the option of constituting only two tiers
under the constitution 73rd amendment Act, 1992, but an ordinance framed on 18th
April 1994, that is, the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayat Raj ordinance, included the
constitution of three tiers in the state.
passage of the 73rd constitutional Amendment Act 1992 created a unique situation
in Arunachal Pradesh. To meet the requirement of the 73rd Amendment Act, the
Arunachal Pradesh Government issued the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj
ordinance 1994 replacing the NEFA Panchayati Raj Regulation 1967 to meet the
requirements of Act. The ordinance was sought to be replaced by the Arunachal
Pradesh Panchayati Raj Bill 1994 passed by the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative
Assembly in September 1994. It contained the same provisions as in the
Panchayati Raj Ordinance. However, the Bill could not become an Act as the
Govenor of Arunachal Pradesh reserved it for the assent of the President of
President of India did not give assent to the Bill remitted it to the
Legislative Assembly with the observation that (1). It does not provide for Gram
Sabha, and that (2). It does not provide for reservation for scheduled castes.
The State Legislative assembly reconsidered the Bill in March 1997 and modified
it to provide for a Gram Sabha at the lowest level of Panchayats but it did not
agree to make a provision for reservation for Scheduled Castes on the plea that
Arunachal Pradesh does not have any Scheduled Caste population. The negligible
Scheduled Caste population in the state is only floating population and is
mainly concentrated in urban areas. The bill was sent again to the President of
India in April 1997. It is now awaiting the President’s assent. Therefore no
elections have so far been held to the Panchayat bodies.
the Arunachal Pradesh Governor thrice extended the life of the Panchayat bodies
elected in 1992 under the NEFA Panchayat Raj Regulation 1967, first time in
August 1995 for one year and then in September 1996 and in March 1997 extending
it for six months each time. The original term of Panchayats were three years.
It was extended upto five years with the plea that the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992
makes an uniform 5 years term for the Panchayats, throughout the country,
overlooking the fact that it does not allow any extension of terms of the
Panchayats elected under the existing Acts. It only allows them to complete the
term if it extends beyond 1994.
on 14th September 1997 on completion of the two-year term of the Panchayats, the
state government ordered their dissolution. Thus, the 73rd Amendment Act has
created an entirely opposite impact of its intended objectives of strengthening
and ensuring introduction of Panchayats in every state. In Arunachal Pradesh, it
had led to a situation where existing Panchayats are also eliminated. There are
frequent and ever increasing demand from the people to restore the Panchayats in
the state as soon as possible.
Arunachal Pradesh, there is also a traditional gathering of villagers known as
Kebang, which meets to sort out local problems. Members of the Kebang must be
encouraged to contest elections.
Arunachal Pradesh Assembly had passed a bill to create four Autonomous District
Councils in the state in 2003 but the Parliament is yet to approve it.
In Sikkim during the
Kazi-Thikadari Raj, any influential Khardar, Amaldar, village Mandal or even a
village elder can call the Panchayat composed of the village elders in order to
hear and decide petty disputes among the villagers. Thus all the petty cases
would be decided in the village Panchayat.
from 1940s, the Sikkim Government constituted some Panchayats in Sumbuk, Turuk,
Rhenock and Pakyong. A literate village elder would be appointed as the Chairman
with four or five members to assist him to discharge functions. Even here the
responsibilities of the Panchayats were confined to settle petty cases of the
villagers.In 1949, when J.S. Lall was appointed as the Dewan of Sikkim, he tried
to introduce the Panchyat Raj in Sikkim. During Narbahadur Bhandari’s regime,
the partyless Panchayat system was introduced. But all the elected Panchayats
functioned as the village cadre of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad. These Panchayats
were responsible to implement village development projects like construction of
log bridges, village irrigation channels and water supply schemes. But the cost
of every development project being implemented by the Panchayat contractors
should not exceed Rs 5 lakhs.
Pawan Kumar Chamling’s SDF party formed the government in 1994, he introduced
the Panchayat elections on party basis. Mr. Chamling reiterated that the
Panchayati Raj is the stepping-stone to Vidhan Sabha and Parliamentary
elections. Panchyati Raj is “the soul of democratic governance.”
Minister Chamling had declared, “We have reserved 33 percent seats for women.
We have also made reservation for Other Backward lasses. We have now started
transferring funds so that the Panchayts would be able to function more
came under British rule as a princely state in 1891. The Manipur Constitution
Act, 1947, established a democratic form of government with the ‘Maharajah’
(King) as the executive head and a legislature constituted by election based on
adult franchise. The Legislative Assembly so constituted was dissolved after the
integration of the state with the Dominion of India in October 1949. It became
as a part ‘C’ state under the Indian constitution with effect from
26-1-1950. Manipur achieved full statehood on January 21, 1972.
is geographically divided into the hills and valley. The Hill areas are
inhabited predominantly by the Nagas, Kukis, Paites, Gangtes etc with a
sprinkling of the Nepalese in the immediate neighborhood of the valley. The
valley is inhabited by Meiteis, (Manipuri Hindus), Pangals (Manipuri Muslims),
the Nepalese, and the Business communities like Marwaris, Punjabis, Biharis and
so on. The Barak basin is inhabited by the Meiteis and the Bengalis.
Panchayati Raj institutions were functioning only in the valley districts and
Jiribam sub-division. In the hill districts, there were village authorities,
almost similar to village Panchayats, functioning under the provisions of the
1956 Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act.
Evolution of Panchayats in Manipur
form of Panchayats had been existing both in the valley and hill areas of
Manipur from time immemorial. In the villages of valley there were institution
viz, Singlup or wood clubs, resembling the Panchayats of Bengal, under the
‘Sardar’ or head of village. Besides generally controlling village affairs,
these singlups used to adjudicate petty disputes in the villages. In December
1896, the singlups were replaced by Panchayats. These Panchayats were
constituted with five members. These Panchayats had the power to impose fines up
to fifty rupees, and of deciding civil suits upto value of fifty rupees or less.
apex Panchayat at Imphal, known as Sadar Panchayat, adjudicated in civil cases
of appeals from the village Panchayats besides looking after the civil cases of
the Imphal area. Under the Manipur State Courts Act, 1947, Vilalge Panchayats
were conferred powers of the lowest court for the administration of Justice in
criminal and civil cases.
Modern Panchayat System in Manipur
Panchayat system in Manipur was introduced in 1960 under the provisions of the
United Provinces Panchayat Raj Act 1947, which was extended to the state. Under
the Act, a two-tier system was introduced in the state. The state government
enacted the Manipur Panchayati Raj Act in 1975 which provided a three tier
system of Panchayat in the state comprising Gram Panchayats at the Gram Sabha
level, Panchayat Samities at the block level and Zilla Parishads at the district
levels, besides Nyaya Panchayats for judicial purposes.
Post 73rd Amendment Developments
In conformity with the 73rd
constitution Amendment Act of 1992, the Manipur Panchayati Raj Act 1994 was
passed on 23rd April 1994 by repealing the Act of 1975. The new Act has provided
for the constitution of a two-tier Panchayati Raj in the valley areas, the Gram
Sabha at the village level and Zilla Parishad at the district level. The Act of
1994 was amended substantially in 1996 to accommodate gram sabha at the village
level having population of not less than 3,000 and not more than 6,000. The last
elections took place in 2001. The state government has not devolved a number of
the subjects to the Pachayats and elected members went on strike, demanding
reinstatement of their rights.
Autonomous Councils are in existence in the hill areas of Manipur. However, they
have few real powers. They have several regulatory powers subject to state
control. In the exercise of development functions, they are at the mercy of the
state government, since their incomes are unstable,
state is seeking Sixth Schedule status for its hill areas for decades and
nothing much has come of it, leading to opinion that the demand was not really
serious. The population in the hills is one-third of the total population. While
the Centre should seriously conisder the request to extend the Sixth Schedule
provisions to the Manipur Hill areas, it should also consider invoking and
involving the traditional tribal institutions of the various hill tribes as a
tier of the Autonomous District Council. The issue needs to be viewed in the
light of the complications arising out of the Naga demand of a Nagalim.
the Manipur government had passed a resolution asking the Centre to confer Sixth
Schedule status on the hills. But now some of the ethnic groups in the hills do
not seek a Sixth Schedule status. Certain Naga groups want to be part of ‘’Nagalim’’
or Greater Nagaland comprising existing Nagaland and contiguous Naga inhabited
areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Tripura is the second smallest
state in India. It was formally declared a Union Territory on November 1, 1957
and elevated to the status of a full-fledged state on January 21, 1972. The
Panchayati Raj system in Tripura was initially guided by the United Province
Panchayat Raj Act, 1947, and ‘Gaon Sabhas’ in development blocks were
constituted in a phased manner. The Tripura Panchayats Act, 1983, was brought
into force in January 1984, replacing the United Provinces Panchayat Raj Act,
has a long history of good local self governance. Where a single tier system of
Panchayati Raj was started at the village level. The Gram Panchayat is the
executive body of the Goan Sabhas constituted through open election by raising
hands. Naya Panchayat was also formed at circle level by comprising several Goan
Sabhas. The Tripura Panchayat Act, 1993 established a three-tier structure in
the state with the Gram Panchayat as the lowest tier, the Panchayat Samitis at
the block level and Zilla Parshad at the district level. The Act also provides
for a Gram Sabha which shall meet annually to consider matters relating to
accounts, budget, and report of development works in the Gram Panchayat.
Sabhas are there irrespective of schedule or non-schedule area. Hence,
Tripura’s local self-governance is quiet unique. The members of Gram Sabha in
Tripura have never been silent observer. They actively participate in almost all
the village affairs like crime and punishment, guarding the villages and
forests, resolving community conflicts, land alienation and management matters,
general cleanliness of the village and other service areas like cleaning the
local health centre. Gram Sabhas are capable of determining and analyzing the
resources they have including opportunities as well as problems and obstacles to
Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) was set up in 1985
under the sixth schedule of the constitution and it provides for separate
elections to village councils. It was a successor to a an earlier Council formed
in 1982 under the Fifith Schedule. The Council has its own rules, regulations
for performing activities within its domain. These include, settling private
disputes, administrative job including market, water supply, judicial —
murder, theft and divorce.
TTAADC passed a resolution in September 1991 seeking the enforcement of Inner
Line Permit System. In 1997, a bill was passed to set up its own police force.
TTAADC has 28 elected members The rest two are nominated by the Governor and
they must be tribals too. The Council comprises two-third of the State’s
geographical size, however, the population structure is two-third non-tribals
and other one-third tribal.
area of confrontation exists between the TTAADC and the State government in
relation to devolution of power and functions. The Council has demanded for
devolution of more powers and direct funding by the Centre under Article 244A of
Meghalaya, literally ‘the abode
of the clouds’ was inaugurated as an autonomous state on April 2, 1970. It was
declared as state on January 21, 1972. Khasi, Jaintia and Garo are the three
major tribes and other smaller tribes are Hajong, Rabha, Delu, Babai and Mann.
There are three District councils under the sixth schedule of the constitution
covering the seven districts of the state. The District Councils are among the
oldest in the country and began at the time of undivided Assam. Essentially
created to protect the hill groups from domination by the plains, there is a
distinctly anomalous situation in Meghalaya today. The District Councils as well
as the state Assembly are dominated by the three major tribes. So certain
questions arise: whose interests are the Autonomous District Councils
protecting? Have they been effective in taking self-governance to the
grassroots? If not, where have they fallen short?
In Meghalaya, specially in the
recent years, political instability, floor crossings combined with abrupt
changes of leadership have disrupted functioning of the Councils. There is a
overlap of authority in the state. Given its small size, a conflict of interest
is bound to arise between the Assembly and District Councils. There are three
competing systems of authority each of which is seeking to serve or represent
the same constituency. The result has been confusion and confrontation
expecially at the local level on a number of issues.
Garo Hills District Council
In Garo Hills, below the level of
District Council there is an institution called Lasker which is recognised by
the District Council as a traditional body. During the colonial rule they were
under the control of the Deputy Commissioner. They have both Executive and
Judiciary functions within their area. In Garo Hills, there is another
institution at the village level called Nokma. Nokma who holds control over clan
land is called A’king Nokma and there are village level ‘Sardars’ to
assist the Nokmas in day to day village administration. The Nokmas and Sardars
to are under the administrative control of the District council. Nokmanship is
inherited by the clan members under the District council administration.
The A’king Nokmas have been
reduced to mere custodians and supervisors of their A’kings on behalf of their
wives and their clans. However, the Garo Hills District (Jhum) Regulation Act,
1954, conferred on the A’king Nokmas the right to allot land for jhumming to
each family within his A’king in consultation with the residents thereof. But
in the event of any dispute with regard to the land so allotted by the A’king
Nokma to any particular person or a family, the matter has to be referred to the
village council, a power which was earlier exercised by the A’king Nokma.
Garo Hills Autonomous District Council passed the Constitution of Village
Council Act in 1958 in order to establish and develop local self government in
the rural areas and to make better provisions for rural administration and to
develop them as self-sufficient units. A village council was constituted for
each village and group of villages. There was a President and a Secretary for
each village council. The duties and functioned allocated to the Village Council
included: cleaning and lighting of village roads and paths; sanitation,
construction, maintenance and improvement of public wells and tanks; preventive
measures in case of epidemic, opening and regulation of burial and cremaation
ground and places for disposal of dead animals, construction and maintenance of
places for the storage of cow-dung and other manures, maintenance of record of
population census, primary school education. Registration of births and deaths
Khasi and Jaintia Hills District Councils
Khasi Hills, the Syiem (King) is recognized as traditional institution who holds
office usually for life but in some cases for short period of five years. The
Syiem is elected in accordance with the customary law and practice by
traditional executive called Myntris. The institution is under the
administrative control of the District Councils.
Jaintia Hills District also there is a traditional authority called Doloi who
functions more or less on the same pattern of syiems among the Khasis. A
district council for the then Khasi and Jaintia Hills District was inaugurated
in 1952. The United Khasi Jaintia Hills Autonomous District (Appointment and
Succession of Chiefs and Headman) Act, 1959 (hereafter referred to as the
Principal Act), made provision not only for its authority to appoint the chiefs
and headmen, but also that of the removal and suspension of the same by the
executive committee of the district council, if in its opinion, these incumbents
violated, the terms and conditions of their appointment. This act not only
brought radical changes in the pattern and procedure of the election and
appointment of chiefs, but also reduced their position and status.
According to Article 243 M of the
constitution, the provisions relating to Panchayati Raj institution are not
applicable to Meghalaya. Hence, 73rd Amendment of Indian Constitutio does not
apply to Meghalaya.
Mizoram, in the local language,
means the land of Mizos. ‘Mizo’ itself means highlander. Under the British
administration, Mizoram was know as Lushai Hills District. In 1954 by an Act of
Parliament the name was changed to Mizo Hills District. In 1972, when it was
made a Union Territory, it was named Mizoram. Mizoram became 23rd state of
Indian Union on 20.2.1987.
The Mizos have various tribes
including Lushais, Pawis, Paites, Raltes, Hmars, Kukis, Maras and Lakhers.
Mizoram has democratically elected Village Councils since 1954 which have been
set up by the enactments of the District Council as per sub-clause (e) of the
clause (3) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India with a very
limited functions and powers mostly administrative and judicial of petty nature.
The Lushai Hills District (Village Councils) Act 1953 and the Pawi-Lakher
Autonomous Region (Village Council) Act 1994 have been adopted by the Mizoram
government and the District Councils (Mara District Council, Lai District
Council and Chakma District Council) since 1972. The provisions of the Acts are
amended by an executive/ administrative orders of the government and District
The three District Councils of
Mizoram handle 18 subjects each, similar to those of Meghalaya. The Chakma
Council have 13 elected posts and three nominated. The Lai ADC has 23 elected
members and four more are nominated by the Governor. The Mara ADC has 19 elected
and four nominated members. There are demands from Paites in Western Mizoram,
the Hmars (they already have a Hill Development Council) and the Brus (Reangs)
for Autonomous District Councils.The 73rd Constitutional Amendments Act does not
apply to Mizoram.
Village Councils of Nagaland
The Nagaland state comprises of
the former Naga Hills district of Assam and the former Tuensang Frontier
division of the North East Frontier Agency. These were made a Centrally
Administered Area in 1957. In January 1961, it became the state of Nagaland. The
state of Nagaland was officially inaugurated on 1st December 1963. The
population of Nagaland is entirely tribal. There are as many as 16 major Naga
tribes with their own distinctive languages and cultural features. The major
tribes are Angami, Rengma, Sema, Lotha, Zeliang, Ao, Chakesang, Chang, Sangtam,
Khemnungan, Yimchunger, Phom and Konyak.
Village level institutions have
been strong in Nagaland. Since time immemorial Naga villages were independent in
nature. There had been two major forms of village governments in Naga society,
viz. democratic and chieftain ships. For instance, the Angamis, the Aos and the
Chakhesangs had democratic form of government whereas the Semas, and the Konyaks
practiced chieftainship type of village government. The governments were run the
customary laws and usages. Even today customary laws are considered as the
guiding principles of life in society.
Traditionally, life in every
village in Nagland is managed by a council of elders - village council. Village
organization in Nagaland is primarily based on institution of clan. A clan is a
group of families amongst whom inter-marriage is strictly prohibited.
Geographically a Naga village is divided into Khels (wards or sectors) which
indicates a cluster of families.
The history records that Naga
villages were organized as independent small states or republics. However, there
was no uniform legal system of village government in Naga society till 1970.
After realizing the importance of village government, the state government of
Nagaland passed an Act known as Nagaland Village, Area and Regional Council Act,
1970. Thereafter, it was further amended in 1973 and 1978 as Nagaland Village
and Area Council Act with a view to bring uniformity in Village Council
structure all over Nagaland. A Village Council consists of members chosen by
villagers in accordance with the prevailing customary practices and usages, the
same being approved by the state government, provided that hereditary village
chiefs, Goan Booras (GBs) and Angs shall be e-officio members of such councils
and shall have voting rights. The village council will choose a member as
Chairman of the council. The Village council may select and appoint a Secretary
who may or may not be a member of the council. If the Secretary is not a member
of the council, he shall have no voting power.
Village Council has the following powers and duties:
² to formulate village development schemes , to supervise proper maintenance of water supply, roads, forest, education and other welfare activities,
² to help various govt. agencies in carrying out development works in the village,
² to take development works on its own initiative or on request by the government.
² to borrow money from the government, Banks or financial institution for application in the development and welfare work of the village and to repay the same with or without interest;
² to apply for and receive grants-in-aid, donations, susidies from the government or any agency, etc and to control &disposal of immovable property, etc.
accordance with the Nagaland Village Area and Regional Council Act 1970(Amended
in 1973 and 1978) VDB came into existence in 1980,as a subsidiary to Village
Council. At present Nagaland has 1,045 recognized villages and each village has
a Village Council to look after law and order situation of the village and a VDB
to undertake developmental activities of the village. VDB deliver developmental
works to the village through centrally sponsored Schemes as well as State govt.
constitution 73rd Amendment Act does not apply to the state of Nagaland.
Nagaland is a case apart, even from the other North-Eastern states, with the
passage of Article 371A which specifies that no Act of Parliament in respect of
(i) religious or social practices of the Nagas, (ii) Naga customary law and
procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving
decisions according to Naga customary law and (iv) ownership and transfer of
land and its resources shall apply to state unless its Legislative Assembly by a
resolution so decides. This provision gives such powers including the right to
deny the Centre’s mining rights which few other States have in India. In
addition, the Governor of Nagaland has special powers to act with regard to
internal disturbances, powers which are virtually unchallengeable.
Comparison between Panchayats, Districts Council and traditional Institutions
Making Phanchayat institutions of
self governance is the mandate of the constitution. The 73rd constitution
Amendment Act ushers in a new era of participatory governance towards realizing
Gandhiji’s dream and his ideas of Gram Swaraj. The objective of the 73rd
Amendment Act to the Constitution is the devolution of power, where as Village
Council Acts do not stipulate the same. The village Councils thus have no
comparison with constitutional provisions relating to Panchayats.
When all the provisions of the
73rd Amendment about the powers, scope of function and financial support for the
exercises of the powers and discharge of the responsibilities by the Panchayat
bodies are compared with those attached to the District Councils under the Sixth
Schedule, it is found that while the District Councils have several regulatory
powers subject to state government control, the Panchayats are in more
advantageous position in respect of developmental functions. The sources of
income of district councils are less stable. Infact, they are solely at the
mercy of the state government, whereas the Panchayat bodies are entitled to get
funds from the state and central government under several schemes, in addition,
to their own regular sources of income by taxation, mobilisation of locally
available resources, and the like.
To prevent the Panchayat bodies
from falling into financial Starvation Financial Commission has been
established. In case the Panchayat bodies are dissolved, the 73rd Amendment to
the constitution stipulates that they must be reconstituted within a period of
six months from the date of their dissolution. In the case of district councils,
fresh elections can be held subject to the approval of the state legislature
within a period not exceeding twelve months. Moreover, where as there is a
provision of reservation of seats for women in Panchayat bodies, their
representation is neglected in the traditional institutions and in the District
Council. One of the major drawbacks of the District Councils vis-a-vis
Panchayats is that while in Panchayats power percolates down to the village
level in Councils it is concentrated at the District level. This often do not
lead to empowerment of people at the grass root level. It has also been argued
that District Councils would be more effective if villages under such Councils
The overriding issue of
corruption has emerged as a major problem. It is now being accepted all over
that one of the major drawbacks of the process of development planning has been
corruption in rural development works, and even at the high levels of
bureaucracy and political leadership. In the North-Eastern states the pace of
development is comparatively slower in case of District Councils in comparison
to the Panchayat areas, largely due to rampant corruption. In tribal areas the
elites or the local leaders take the largest share of benefits depriving the
poorest section of the society. Panchayats are party based and it is the ruling
party that dominates. However, since the members are from different political
parties there is scope to take meticulous measures to prevent or reduce
corruption. Efforts must made be to develop these instruments (Panchayats and
District Councils) of political development through the framework of the
Constitution which brings self-governance to the region and confront the false
hopes and angers generated by forces proposing disintegration. The future of the
North-Eastern states, in political terms, hinges on those seeking and choosing
self-governance over those seeking seperation.
relevance of the Sixth Schedule in the present context needs a serious review.
The Schedule was specifically created to ensure the protection of the minor
tribes from the threat of marginalization, domination and homogenisation by the
major tribal group under the jurisdictional area of the Autonomous District
the Schedule succeeded to a great extent to preserve the distinct identity and
autonomy of tribal population, yet the same provision has become subject to
controversies. The former excluded areas which the Schedule was supposed to
protect have graduated from districts into full-fledged States such as Meghalaya
and Mizoram. Therefore, the District Councils in these States are now an
anachronism as they overlap the normal district administration and have tended
to duplicate the former and become a rival focus of power and financial burden.
the Sixth Schedule has an inherent tendency to promote ethnic polarisation and
sub-nationalism. At one level, the Schedule has brought out the clash of
interests between the non-tribal valley dwellers and tribal hill dwellers.
Further, the Schedule has problem so far as issue of representation is
concerned. For instance, the Legislative Assemblies of Arunachal, Mizoram and
Nagaland have all but one seats reserved for STs. This was justified when the
tribals were in majority. But a sea change has undergone in the demography of
the region. In a way, the Schedule promotes a de-facto regime of two-tired
citizenship. Unless reviewed comprehensively, the Schedule could become chief
source of future conflicts in the region.
is also a need to re-look at the way Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are
working in the North-East. The PRIs which devolves the powers to the people and
promotes self-reliant and self-sufficient local institutions has remained
defunct in the region largely due to overlapping laws and institutions. The PRIs
are entrusted with a wide range of functions that exceeds what is available to
the District Councils under the Sixth Schedule. As a result, these parallel
institutions often clash and duplicating each others works. In other words,
there is an urgent need to re-look at existing arrangements that would make
decentralised governance a reality.
time is also ripe to look afresh on the relevance of ‘special packages’ for
the states in the region in the existing scenario. While not undervaluing the
importance of special economic packages for the development of the region,
generous economic aid has been poured without making proper assessment of
institutional capacity and its utili-sation in productive terms. Most of these
States have very few revenue sources, they are special category states that
primarily rely on central government’s assistance - 90 per cent grants and 10
per cent loans.
independent sources of tax revenue, the autonomy of such units is compromised.
Consequently, this form of financing state budgets has provided the local
politicians an added incentive to engage in rent seeking activities encouraging
fiscal irresponsibility. The overwhelming dependence on the central government
for funds also means that most development projects are both funded and designed
far away from the region and with little likelihood of reflecting local visions
of the future. Besides, the major fallout of this is the leakage of development
funds is the emergence of a large new rent seeking class consisting of
bureaucrats, politicians and contractors. This has led to increasingly corrupt
regimes in the North-East. Though stopping the aid could not be an answer, but
its time to rethink how such generous grants are efficiently utilised. Working
of much neglected grassroots institutions both in terms of capacity and freedom
to implement development programmes must be reviewed.
genesis of the movements for greater autonomy by different ethnic groups in the
North-East lay in the British policy of administration for the region. The
system of administration established under colonial rule was effective in the
plains of the region. But the hills, inhabited mostly by tribal people, were
virtually left out from that system of administration. In fact the hills were
classified as ‘excluded’ or ‘partially excluded’ areas and tribal
communities living in such areas were allowed to continue with their traditional
arrangements of self- governance’.
independence, in an attempt to integrate these areas while preserving the
tradition of self-governance of the tribal communities, the Sixth Schedule was
incorporated in the Constitution of India. The Sixth Schedule provided for
District and Regional Councils for the erstwhile ‘excluded’ and ‘partially
excluded’ areas and these institutions were expected to integrate such areas
with the modem system of administration while preserving the traditional
autonomy and self-governance of the tribal people. But these arrangements failed
to meet the aspirations of the newly emerging political leadership of some of
the tribal groups.
demanded independence. Other groups also followed by launching movements
demanding autonomy of various degrees. The Central Government responded to these
demands by carrying out several rounds of reorganisations of the region and
carving out new states. But instead of settling the issue, creation of the new
states encouraged other ethnic groups to organise movements and agitations
demanding greater autonomy, separate states and so on.
Sixth Schedule and Ethnicity in North-East
prolonged turmoil in the North-East is rooted in two causes; (a) the question of
ethnic/cultural identity, which is perceived to be threatened by
encroachment/infiltration by people of other ethnic/cultural groups from within
and outside the region and the country; and (2) the persistence of economic
of smaller & ethnic states does not seem to have led towards elimination of
either of these causes. In any case the viability of more new states in the
region is extremely doubtful. The experiments with Autonomous District Councils
have also not yielded the desired results. Such a step has so far not received
the favour of either the ruling politicians or the agitation leaders demanding
greater autonomy or separate states. Some kind of competitive ethnicity, real
and contrived, is frittering away the energy of people, besides encouraging
fragmentation and social distancing. There is a need for relook. There is no
justification now of ADC in Meghalaya and Mizoram. Its waste of resources.
problem of encroachment and infiltration will also he easier to handle with
closer monitoring at the local level, a task that can he easily and legitimately
taken up by the elected local bodies. Thus democratic decentralisation of power
to the grassroots can lead to an ultimate solution to the twin problems of
persistent underdevelopment and ethno-cultural insecurity of the people of the
region. It is therefore necessary to ensure through constitutional or other
provisions that politicians are not able to prevent such a process of democratic
decentralisation from setting in.
the provisions like the Sixth Schedule and the PRIs require a thorough review,
the existing federal arrangements and the power sharing demands new thinking. It
is necessary to explore new dimensions of power sharing in the region which may
address the long-standing demands of various ethnic groups to have genuine
autonomy and self-rule. Should we hesitate in terms of asymmetrical federal
arrangements with whatever modifications in the manner that it has been
experimented in Quebec and Switzerland with success to quell bitter ethnic
conflicts? And there can be no better time than this when negotiations are being
held with the various rebel groups of the region.
Sixth Schedule & Insurgency
Sixth Schedule was incorporated in the Constitution to give Greater Autonomy to
the Tribal Areas of the North-East to counter insurgency, the ADCs in Autonomous
District Councils in Karbi Anglong district and North Cachar Hills district have
been witnessing separatist movements in the last decade. This underlines the
fact that Councils have not been able to fulfil the aspirations and address the
grievances of the people of the area. Ceasefire agreements with the key
insurgent groups have helped to reduce violence in the area.
active in the two Autonomous Councils—United People’s Democratic
Solidarity (UPDS), Dima Halim Daogah (DHD), and also Hmar People’s Convention-
too has been witnessing insurgency despite the formation of TTAADC. The two
principal seccessionist groups in the state are National Liberation Front of
Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), which mostly operate from
their bases in Bangladesh. Peace Accords have been signed with two factions of
the NLFT— Montu Koloi and Nayanbasi Jamatiya and they have laid down arms last
|Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)|