The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved an amendment to Article 280 and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to increase autonomy, financial resources and powers of the autonomous district councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
While the amendment will ensure 30% reservation for women in village and municipal councils in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura, the centre also decided that “the finance commission constituted by the Union government will be specifically mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to the 10 autonomous district councils, as well as the village and municipal councils, in the sixth schedule areas."
The announcement comes at a time when the entire North-East is in the throes of a turmoil after the Union cabinet passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which aims to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the impending final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) later this year.
The centre’s decision to expedite the move before the national elections is expected to mollify ethnic and tribal communities in the region.
Considering the Lok Sabha polls are just months away, the centre is extending an olive branch to several factions within the North-East. It had earlier announced a high-power committee to ensure the effective implementation of the Assam Accord.
“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," said a person familiar with the development, requesting anonymity.
In the winter session of Parliament, minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju had said that the government had readied a proposal to strengthen autonomous councils in tribal areas in the NorthEast, adding that the main purpose of the Constitution amendment bill was to increase representation of women.
While the amendment clears the decks for strengthening the autonomous councils and granting them a major role in governance and developmental activities, it also provides for transfer of additional “30 subjects, including public works department (PWD), forests, public health engineering, health and family welfare, urban development and food and civil supply" to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council (KAATC) and Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council (DHATC) in Assam.