Congress MDCs seek amendment of Constitution (Schedule Tribe) Order, 1950

Shillong, Sept 19: The opposition Congress has demanded amendment of the Constitution (Schedule Tribe) Order 1950 which provides ST status to tribes from other states in the North East, failing which future course of action will be taken.

The Congress also alleged that the move to include the word ‘unrepresented’ tribes as members of the autonomous district councils is the “political ploy” of the BJP-led NDA government

to dilute the unique identity of indigenous tribes in Meghalaya.

A joint delegation led by East Shillong legislator, Ampareen Lyngdoh and opposition members in the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council met District Council Affairs minister, James K Sangma on Thursday and submitted a memorandum to him seeking his intervention into the matter.

“We strongly oppose this provision (in the proposed amendment of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India) and it should be deleted with regard to the KHADC as was done in the JHADC,” the memorandum said.

On the proposal to increase the number of seats in the ADCs, the Congress leaders said, existing seats designated for filling up by election are felt to be adequate and suggested that for the ADCs in the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills, one more nominated member can be included to make a total of 31 members.

Speaking to reporters, East Shillong MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh said, “There is a political ploy (by the Centre) in the move to include unrepresented tribes in the ADCs to dilute the indigenous tribes of the state.”

She said therefore, there is need for the state government to amend the Constitution (Schedule Tribe) Order 1950 to ensure ST list includes only tribes that are indigenous to Meghalaya.

KHADC leader of opposition, Lamphrang Blah said the issue was also taken up with district council affairs minister who assured the delegation that he would look into matter.

Asked, Blah however said the Congress will decide on its future course of action if the government fails to pay any heed on the demand.

MDC, Balajied Ranee on the other hand said the Centre should increase funding to the KHADC instead of enhancing the number of seats.

The delegation has also pointed out that there are terminological inconsistencies in the amendment Bill in the present form. While the nomenclature of the ADCs will change to “Autonomous Territorial Councils”, the words “District Councils” are still used in the amending sections.

According to them, there is need to maintain the autonomy of the territorial councils in the new Sixth Schedule as in its present form, the ADCs will become only a department of the state government which is not desirable in the interest of the tribal people

They also lamented that the issue of land rights to include mineral rights has not been addressed in the said Bill.

In view of the serious situation relating to coal arising out of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court, the delegation said there is deep despair and dangerous frustration of the people in the coal belts of the state especially the small miners that do not have access to financial resources.

“This is an important issue which needs to be addressed in finality under a provision of the Sixth Schedule codifying the judgment of the Supreme Court…” they said.

Further, the delegation has also suggested the need to define the role of the Governor in Para 12 A by incorporating a new clause as under 12 A (c): “The Governor in exercise of his powers in relation to the administration of the autonomous territories or regions shall exercise his discretion under Article 193 (2) of the Constitution.”