In an attempt to woo the tribal population in the Northeast ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the government Wednesday decided to grant more power and funds to 10 autonomous councils in the region.
The Union Cabinet approved a constitutional amendment to increase the powers of the autonomous councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the Northeast. The Finance Commission will be mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to them, an official statement said.
The amendment also provides for transfer of additional 30 subjects, including departments of Public Works, Forests, Public Health Engineering, Health and Family Welfare, Urban Development and Food and Civil Supply to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council in Assam.
Time will tell if move will calm tempers in N-E
At a time when the Northeast is witnessing protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the Union cabinet has given approval to the long-pending demand of autonomous council, empowering the areas under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Whether the move will calm tempers in Northeast and whether the proposed amendments will be cleared by Parliament is yet to be seen. Also, the devolution of financial resources by Finance Commission to ensure more funds to local government institutions can only be successful if Centre is able to plug loopholes and ensure funds are used for development purposes unlike in the past when autonomous councils in Assam were charged by CBI and NIA for indulging in corruption and terror-related activities.
“The cabinet approves landmark amendment to Article 280 and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The most important part of these amendments is that these will significantly improve the financial resources and powers of the autonomous districts councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, fulfilling longstanding aspirations of the tribal population in these Northeastern states,” the statement read.
A Bill in this regard is expected to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament, a Home Ministry official said. “This will be a game changer, as it will substantially enhance the funds available to these local government institutions for undertaking development works in these tribal areas,” the official said.
The proposed amendments provide for elected village municipal councils. The village councils will be empowered to prepare plans for economic development and social justice, including those related to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.
Responding to the move, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal thanked PM Narendra Modi. He said this will significantly improve financial resources and administrative powers of the councils. Ripun Bora, Assam Congress chief, said, “This is just a political gimmick by the BJP. It is a ploy to woo votes of the communities.”
In Tripura, BJP ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura welcomed the announcement. “But the IPFT’s demand for the separate Twipraland stands,” the outfit said.