6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution
(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)
Various civil society groups in Ladakh have been demanding inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
The demand for Sixth Schedule started after they felt that the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in current form can no longer protect the interest of tribal as it did not have power to legislate or frame rules on subjects like land, jobs, and cultures.
It is estimated that more than 90% of Ladakh’s population is tribal. The primary Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Ladakh are Balti Beda, Bot (or Boto), Brokpa (or Drokpa, Dard, Shin), Changpa, Garra, Mon and Purigpa.
Thereby several distinct cultural heritages of these communities in Ladakh region needs to be preserved and promoted.
About the Sixth Schedule:
It protects tribal populations and provides autonomy to the communities through creation of autonomous development councils that can frame laws on land, public health, agriculture and others.
As of now, 10 autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
This special provision is provided under Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts.
If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions.
Composition: Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise.
Term: The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members hold office during the pleasure of the governor.
Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.
Powers of councils: The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction. They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on. But all such laws require the assent of the governor.
Village councils: The district and regional councils within their territorial jurisdictions can constitute village councils or courts for trial of suits and cases between the tribes. They hear appeals from them. The jurisdiction of high court over these suits and cases is specified by the governor.
Chinese project at Balochistan port
(GS-II: India and neighbourhood relations)
Since the second week of November, there have been continuous protests in Gwadar, Balochistan against mega development plans of the port city as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
What’s the issue?
Locals have sought to draw attention to marginalisation of the local people in the development of the port. They are angry that not only are they being excluded, their present livelihood too has been endangered.
The local concerns:
Balochistan is among the least developed even though the most resource-rich of Pakistan’s four provinces. The main means of livelihood for people in the region is fishing. Balochistan has the lowest access to drinking water, electricity, and even the gas that is the main resource of the region.
Concerns of India, West:
India has been concerned that Gwadar, which gives China strategic access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, is not just being developed as a trade entrepot but as a dual purpose port for use by PLAN (the Chinese Navy) and is intended to expand Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region alongside Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. With vital military interests in West Asia, the US too is concerned about the Chinese presence in Gwadar.
Launched in 2015, the CPEC is the flagship project of the multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.
The 3,000 km-long China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) consists of highways, railways, and pipelines.
CPEC eventually aims at linking the city of Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through a vast network of highways and railways.
The proposed project will be financed by heavily-subsidised loans, that will be disbursed to the Government of Pakistan by Chinese banks.
But, why is India concerned?
It passes through PoK.
CPEC rests on a Chinese plan to secure and shorten its supply lines through Gwadar with an enhanced presence in the Indian Ocean. Hence, it is widely believed that upon CPEC’s fruition, an extensive Chinese presence will undermine India’s influence in the Indian Ocean.
It is also being contended that if CPEC were to successfully transform the Pakistan economy that could be a “red rag” for India which will remain at the receiving end of a wealthier and stronger Pakistan.
Besides, India shares a great deal of trust deficit with China and Pakistan and has a history of conflict with both. As a result, even though suggestions to re-approach the project pragmatically have been made, no advocate has overruled the principle strands of contention that continue to mar India’s equations with China and Pakistan.
(GS-III: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has clarified that there is no proposal under consideration to scrap Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deals with sedition.
What is sedition law?
The sedition law has been indiscriminately used against critics, journalists, social media users, activists and citizens for airing their grievances about the governments COVID-19 management, or even for seeking help to gain medical access, equipment, drugs and oxygen cylinders, especially during the second wave of the pandemic.
Section 124A of the IPC states, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
Issues surrounding its misuse:
The sedition law has been in controversy for far too long. Often the governments are criticized for using the law — Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — against vocal critics of their policies.
Therefore, this Section is seen as a restriction of individuals’ freedom of expression and falls short of the provisions of reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech under Article 19 of the Constitution.
The law has been in debate ever since it was brought into force by the colonial British rulers in 1860s. Several top freedom movement leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were booked under the sedition law.
Relevant Supreme Court judgements:
The Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962):
While dealing with offences under Section 124A of the IPC, a five-judge Supreme Court constitutional bench had, in the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962), laid down some guiding principles.
The court ruled that comments-however strongly worded-expressing disapprobation of the actions of the government without causing public disorder by acts of violence would not be penal.
The Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab (1995) case:
In this case, the Supreme Court had clarified that merely shouting slogans, in this case Khalistan Zindabad, does not amount to sedition. Evidently, the sedition law is being both misunderstood and misused to muzzle dissent.
Need of the hour:
The top court has observed that the “ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and the rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation”.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
(GS-I: Issues related to women)
The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women has noted in its report that the Government spent 80% of the funds under the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) scheme on media campaigns.
What needs to be done now?
Over the last six years, through focussed advocacy BBBP has been able to capture the attention of political leadership and national consciousness towards valuing the girl child.
The government must now revisit this strategy and invest in measurable outcomes in health and education for girls.
Launched in January 2015 with the aim to address sex-selective abortion and the declining child sex ratio, which was at 918 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011.
The programme is being implemented across 640 districts.
It is a tri-ministerial effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development.
Outcomes of the scheme:
As per the Ministry of Health, the sex ratio at birth is showing promising trends of improvement and has improved by 16 points from 918 (2014-15) to 934 (2019-20).
Health percentage of first trimester Antenatal Care (ANC) has shown an improving trend from 61 per cent in 2014-15 to 71 per cent in 2019-20.
The education gross enrolment ratio of girls in the schools at the secondary level has also improved from 77.45 per cent (2014-15) to 81.32 per cent (2018-19-provisional figures).