Explained: What is the Sixth Schedule, and can Ladakh be included under it?

What is the news?

Recently, an MP from Ladakh demanded that the region be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to safeguard the land, employment, and cultural identity of the local population.

What is the Sixth Schedule?

The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 provides for the formation of autonomous administrative divisions — Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) — that have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.

The Sixth Schedule applies to the Northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram (three Councils each), and Tripura (one Council).

Read more: About the Sixth Schedule
Why does Ladakh want to be part of the Sixth Schedule?

Buddhist-dominated Leh district had long demanded UT status because it felt neglected by the erstwhile J&K state government, which was under Article 370. After the abrogation of Article 370, the centre granted UT status to Ladakh. The administration of the region is now completely in the hands of bureaucrats (Earlier there were four MLAs from the region).

The UT has two Hill councils in Leh and Kargil, but neither is under the Sixth Schedule. Their powers are limited to the collection of some local taxes such as parking fees and allotment and use of land vested by the Centre.

So, they demand in Lok Sabha to amend the Ladakh Hill Development Council Act, and define “what will be the role and responsibility of the central government, the UT administration and the Lieutenant Governor”.

Why Ladakh’s inclusion into the 6th schedule is difficult?

The Constitution is very clear that the Sixth Schedule is for the Northeast. But for tribal areas in the rest of the country, there is the Fifth Schedule.

So far, No region outside the Northeast has been included in the Sixth Schedule. Even Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, which are totally tribal, are also not in the Sixth Schedule.

About the government decision to protect Ladakh

In 2019, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule as it was predominantly tribal (more than 97%) and have a distinct cultural heritage that needed preservation.

In January 2021, the MHA announced that a committee under G Kishan Reddy would be formed to address “the issues related to the language of Ladakh, the culture of Ladakh and conservation of land in Ladakh”. The committee is yet to submit its report.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: What is the Sixth Schedule, and can Ladakh be included under it?” published in Indian Express on 16th Dec 2021.

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