Ambiguous Autonomy

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Ambiguous Autonomy
Written by Ninglun Hanghal  

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MAHATMA GANDHI , THE FATHER of the Nation who dreamt of Gram Swaraj or self reliant model villages would have been really disappointed given the sad situation of Manipur hills autonomous councils.

It was way back in 1989 that elections to Autonomous District Councils ( ADCs) in Manipur Hill areas were boycotted in demand for extension of 6th Schedule Provisions of the Constitutions of India ( Article 244) . In 2010 fresh elections were held under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council 3rd Amendment Act 2008.  A total of 156 elected representatives took oath on 26th June 2010. The existing 6(six) ADCs in Manipur were Churachandpur; Chandel; Sadar Hills; Senapati; Ukhrul and Tamenglong.  

Thus the ADCs were revived with renewed hope and aspirations. But the road had been not been smooth for the ADCs, as they complete their fourth year. Several representations and memorandums on their grievances such as non devolution of power have been placed before the state as well as Centre Government. Last week ( on 5 September) an odd twenty seven member delegates of the ADCs sat in demonstrations in New Delhi to reiterate the demand for implementation of 6th schedule; a “pending solution for over 30 years” according to the ADC delegates .

After 25 years the ADCs are back to square one as they remain in the same state of affairs. They were bounded with limitations as they became a mere implementers of a few of the development projects ( if any) of the state government . Most of their activity comprise of monitoring rural primary schools, implementing welfare schemes.  
 

According to the 2008 (amendment ) Act, there were 26 subject and a new section 29 (A) listed in  the Principal Act that provided the ADCs the power, functions and responsibilities, which the ADC members alleged till today have not been devolved. . This include welfare, resource management and development, while there is no mention of policy matters, finance, judiciary and legislation.

In complete violation of the Constitution article 371 (c ) the Hill Areas Committee ( HAC) decision were not consider in full spirit and deed. Successive Hill Areas Committee, Manipur state government had adopted resolutions for 6th schedule implementation. Beginning from 1978, under the Chairmanship of Shri S.Adani the resolution was passed. A re-affirmation followed in 1983 under Chairmanship of L.S John the then HAC chairman. In 1990 it was placed before the State Assembly again under Shri Dijuanang.

The role of the Governor of the state, who is the care taker of the hill areas, is altogether another story.

Even as the ADCs remain non-existent with neither election being held nor implementation of 6th Schedule, the State Government under Shri R.K Ranbir Singh, the then Chief Minister, in 1991 came out with a new recommendation stating that the state government has no objection for extending the 6th schedule provisions in the hill areas with “certain local adjustment and amendments”.

This, according to the present ADC members caused further setback to the members and the hill population at large. The ADCs and the civil society in the hills questioned the details of the new addition in the clause and its intention. The centre government had consistently been seeking for explanation of “ local adjustment and amendments” .   In 2003 LK Advani , the then Deputy Prime Minister and earlier other MHA officials have sought for furnishing details regarding the matter from the state government. As of now, the reply of the said queries or subject is not known nor report of the “explanations” available in the public domain.  

Given the already apprehension of the Hill dwellers upon the non implementation of the said 6th schedule it became even more imperative to raise doubts and their concerns over the State Government’s intentions and silence over the demands by the ADCs.   As Shri Mangchinkhup Guite , ADC member in his speech at the Jantar Mantar  demonstration laments  “ a memorandum of understanding for Oil Exploration in our lands have been signed between  Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt. Ltd and the Government without our knowledge, let alone our consent” In the recent years the issue of land records caused a stir in Churachandpur Hill district in 2013 with the revelation of a total of its 134 village land record being maintained by the  Bishnupur valley district.   

As a matter of fact, the functioning of AD , the local self government in the tribal hill areas is weak and abysmal. As it stands, the implications of such a situation, the almost defunct key  governance structure is indicative of a weak democracy , rather a non existence of  governance in the hill areas and Manipur as a whole.

It may also be mentioned that subsequent to the ‘The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act 1971 passed in the Parliament, Manipur was granted statehood in 1972. The first District Council elections were held in 1973 with 18 elected members and 2 nominated members in each council. Today each district councils comprise of 24 elected and 2 nominated members.  

Beside the political suppressions of these grass root representation, basic infrastructures of the ADCs are minimal and absent. Many of the ADCs in Manipur hill areas do not have an office. Moreover most of them could not carry out their responsibility due to security reasons. Nevertheless, they function under high security cover from the capital Imphal.

It remains to be seen as the District Councils are renewing their hope of some kind of a change and improvement in their status and condition with the new Government in the centre.

While the Union Government is equally responsible for the state of affairs of the Local Governing Bodies, the key matter lies in the state government, as per Schedule seven of the Indian Constitution, local government is a state subject. Moreover, according to the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments 1992, ratified by the State Governments, therefore the state is accountable for implementation, monitoring and reforming structure of the local self government.  

In a democratic country like India, the key to development of rural areas and subsequent progress of a nation lies in vibrancy of this local self governance, more commonly known as grassroot democracy. The unrest in the Tribal Hill Areas in Manipur is basically due to the none functioning of this very basic structure of governance, thus one of the key to a solution ( if not all) lies in bringing this local self governments into the forefront as a foundation of administration and governance.

North East Sun
September 16-30, 2014