'Centre for more powers to northeast autonomous councils'

Agartala, July 19 (IANS) The central government is mulling delegating more powers to the autonomous district councils in the country's northeast region, a senior Congress leader said Friday.

"The 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," Leader of Opposition in the Tripura assembly Ratan Lal Nath told reporters here.

Earlier this week, Nath led a five-member delegation from Tripura to meet Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in the national capital.

"Shinde told us that the central government sought opinion from the northeastern states in December last year on the proposed empowerment of the autonomous district councils," the senior Congress leader said.

However, he added that most of the northeastern states "except Left Front-ruled Tripura" have given their views on the issue to the central government.

The centre has proposed forming three-tier village councils and nagar panchayats under the autonomous district councils, he said.

Among the delegates from Tripura who met the home minister was Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) president Bijay Kumar Hrangkhawal.

INPT, an ally of the Congress in Tripura, has been demanding governance of higher education up to college-level and control of land-related issues by the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).

Tripura Tribal Welfare Minister Aghore Debbarma said the government has finalised its opinion on the empowerment of the autonomous district councils and it would soon be communicated to the central government.

"The Left Front has given more powers to the TTAADC and held regular elections in the council. Several 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.

There are 16 autonomous district councils (ADCs) in northeast India, facilitating the rights of governance to the 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.

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