Ladakh should be included in 6th Schedule of Constitution, says Scheduled Tribes Commission

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) on Wednesday wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda recommending that Union Territory of Ladakh should be included in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.

The meeting of the commission, held under the chairmanship of Nand Kumar Sai, deliberated the issue of inclusion of Ladakh under the 5th or 6th Schedule of the Constitution.

The commission welcomed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, which created Ladakh as a Union Territory comprising Kargil and Leh districts.

An official release said that the issue was earlier discussed in the 118th Meeting of the Commission held on August 27.

This was followed by consultations with the Ministries of Home Affairs, Tribal Affairs, and Law and Justice.

The Commission took note that the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh is predominantly a tribal region in the country.

The Scheduled Tribe population represents 66.8 per cent in Leh, 73.35 per cent in Nubra, 97.05 per cent in Khalsti, 83.49 per cent in Kargil, 89.96 per cent in Sanku and 99.16 per cent in Zanskar areas of the Ladakh region.

The release said that official figures do not include a number of communities including Sunni Muslims in the region, who are claiming for Scheduled Tribe status.

"Taking this into account, the total tribal population in Ladakh region is more than 97 per cent," it said.

The Commission noted that prior to the creation of Union Territory, people in Ladakh region had certain agrarian rights including right on land which restricted people from other parts of the country to purchase or acquire land in Ladakh.

Similarly, the Ladakh region has several distinct cultural heritage of communities such as Drokpa, Balti and Changpa which needs to be preserved and promoted.

The provisions under paragraph (1) of the 6th Schedule regarding autonomous districts and autonomous regions states that the tribal areas in the included list shall be an autonomous district.

The schedule also empowers the Parliament to amend any provisions of the schedule.

"The Commission after careful consideration, recommends that the Union Territory of Ladakh be brought under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The Commission feels that this will help in democratic devolution of powers, preserve and promote the distinct culture of the region, protect agrarian rights including rights on land, enhance the transfer of funds for speedy development of Ladakh region," the release said.

It said NCST chairperson had written to Union Home Minister as well as Union Tribal Affairs Minister "conveying the recommendation of the Commission to include Union Territory of Ladakh under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India".