Centre to amend constitution to empower tribals: Tripura minister

Agartala, July 26 (IANS) The central government would soon move a constitution amendment bill in parliament to delegate more powers to the tribal autonomous councils in the northeast, Tripura Tribal Welfare Minister Aghore Debbarma said here Friday.

"The central government has taken opinions from the state governments and the tribal autonomous councils of the northeastern region about the proposed delegation of powers to the self-governing bodies," Debbarma told reporters.

He said: "Before preparing the constitution amendment bill, the central government has sought the views of the state governments and the tribal autonomous councils in December last year. The Left Front government in Tripura has sent its opinions last week."

There are 16 tribal autonomous district councils (ADCs) in the northeast, facilitating the rights of governance to local bodies by the tribals, who constitute 27 percent of the region's 40.55 million people.

Of the 16 autonomous councils, six are in Manipur, three each in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram, and one in Tripura.

Debbarma, a tribal leader and member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist central committee, said the Left Front government has opposed only one proposal out of the 12 central government's proposals to empower the ADCs.

"We opposed the proposal for sending report by the ADCs to the president of India through the state governor once in three months. This is against the federal structure of the Indian constitution," the minister said.

"The Left Front has already given huge powers to the TTAADC (Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council) and holding regular elections in the council. Eight departments including education, forest, agriculture and health, have already been handed over to the TTAADC," Debbarma said.

The TTAADC, which facilitates the socio-economic development of tribals and has jurisdiction over two-thirds of the state's geographical area, was set up in 1985. Tribals form a third of Tripura's 3.7 million people.

The central government's 12 proposals to empower the ADCs include setting up of village councils in the ADC areas like that of three-tier panchayats, 30 percent reservation of seats for the women and formulation of budget by the ADCs themselves.

"We have already fulfilled most of the central government's proposals including regular holding of village council elections. Tripura government already had reserved 50 percent seats in both gram panchayats (outside TTAADC areas) and village committees in the ADC areas for the women," the minister added.

Earlier this month, Leader of Opposition in the Tripura assembly Ratan Lal Nath led a five-member delegation from Tripura and met union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and demanded early empowerment of the ADCs in the northeastern region.

"The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government has been considering the idea of amending the sixth schedule of the constitution to give more powers to the autonomous district councils of the northeastern region," Nath had told reporters here.


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