Cabinet approves landmark Constitutional amendment to increase powers of Autonomous Councils in North East

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PM Narendra Modi looks at an art piece after inaugurating Centers of Excellence at Deen Dayal Hastkala Sankul on Jan 23, 2019.

New Delhi, Jan 23: Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved a landmark amendment to Article 280 and the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. The most important part of these amendments is that these will significantly improve the financial resources and administrative powers of the Autonomous District Councils of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, fulfilling long standing aspirations of the tribal population in these North Eastern States.

Significant highlights of the amendment

  • The Finance Commission constituted by Union Government will now be specifically mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to the ten Autonomous District Councils as well as the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas.  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 amendment also provides for constitution of State Finance Commissions in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • The amendment also provides for transfer of additional 30 subjects including Public Works Department, Forests, Public Health Engineering, Health & Family Welfare, Urban Development and Food & Civil Supply to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council (KAATC) and Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council (DHATC) in Assam, thus greatly strengthening the Autonomous Councils and giving them a major role in the day to day governance and developmental activities.
  • The proposed amendments provide for elected village and municipal councils ensuring grass root democracy.
  • The village councils will be empowered for preparation of plans for economic development and social justice including those in relation to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.
  • There will be reservations of at least one-third of seats for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura and at least two of the nominated members in all autonomous councils in the North East Sixth Schedule areas.
  • There will be State Election Commissions for holding elections to the Autonomous Councils, village and municipal councils in the areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • Meghalaya has for the time being kept out of the purview of the provision for elected village and municipal councils and one-third reservations for women.
  • The amendments will fulfill the commitments made under tripartite Memorandum of Settlements signed by Government of India, State Governments of Assam & Meghalaya, United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and Achik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC).
  • The amendments propose to rename the existing autonomous councils as Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council (KAATC), Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council (DHATC), Garo Hills Autonomous Territorial Council (GHATC), Khasi Hills Autonomous Territorial Council (KHATC), Jaintia Hills Autonomous Territorial Council (JHATC) and Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous Territorial Council (TTAATC) as the present jurisdiction of these Councils extend to more than one districts.
  • There will also be increase in seats in KAATC, DHATC, GHATC, KHATC and JHATC.

Meghalaya CM thanks Modi

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma was quick to tweet on the increased powers to the Autonomous District Councils. Expresing his gratitude, he wrote: “Thank you ji and ji for the historic decision to approve constitutional amendment to substantially increase financial resources and other powers of Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of .”