New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendment to Article 280 and the sixth schedule to the Constitution to improve the financial resources and administrative powers of the autonomous district councils of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura to fulfil the "long standing aspirations" of tribal population residing in these northeastern states.
Calling the decision a landmark move, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the finance commission constituted by the Centre 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," Prasad said after the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Explaining in detail, a government statement said the amendment also provides for constitution of state finance commissions in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
"The amendment provides for transfer of additional 30 subjects including Public Works Department, Forests, Public Health Engineering, Health and Family Welfare; Urban Development, Food and Civil Supply department 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," said the statement.
The amendments, the statement said, also 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 northeast sixth schedule areas resulting in empowerment of women," said the statement.
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 fulfil the commitments made under tripartite memorandum of settlements signed by government of India, state governments of Assam and 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 KAATC, 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.