This article explains the role and functions of the Tribal Advisory Council in the scheduled and non-scheduled areas of India. It also covers the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution, which must be understood before discussing the Tribal Advisory Council. The state Governor’s relevance to the Tribal Advisory Council is also discussed. Finally, it explains why all of these are so crucial in the lives of India’s tribal community.
- Establishing the Tribal Advisory Council
- Constitutional Provisions for the Protection of Tribal Interests
- The Composition and Functions of the Tribal Advisory Council
- The Governor’s Powers and Responsibilities in the Tribal Advisory Council
- Assessing the Efficacy of Constitutional Safeguards for Tribal Communities
Establishing the Tribal Advisory Council
The Tribal Advisory Council’s inclusion was one of the most significant steps forward for Indian tribal people. The tribals now had an established body created expressly for the purpose of advising the state’s Governor on matters related to tribal communities and give them more prominence in decision-making processes.
Apart from the political significance of tribal areas and other minority groups, there is a risk of an ecological crisis that could affect the tribes living in these areas. This could happen because outsiders, such as industries and corporations, might cause damage to the environment in these areas. This could put the tribes’ existence at risk, as they depend on the environment for survival.
Numerous judgments over the years have concluded that the purpose of scheduled areas is to safeguard tribal autonomy, peace, and culture and to undertake social, economic, and political justice. However, it should be acknowledged that there still exists a section of the population in the tribal community that is at times unable to make good use of benefits such as development processes and projects that the government undertakes. It has been a matter of fact over the decades since independence. These provisions (Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution) come as a solution for such issues of development.
Constitutional Provisions for the Protection of Tribal Interests
The Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution ensure the protection of tribal autonomy, peace, and culture and promote social, economic, and political justice for tribal communities.
Objective and Significance of the Fifth Schedule
The Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lays down rules for administering tribal areas and their relationship with the Union of India. Every Indian state has a defined tribal region, but under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, some states have also been given powers to administer these areas. The Indian government uses this provision to exercise administrative control over the affairs and governance of the scheduled tribes in these areas.
Article 244(1) of the Indian Constitution covers the administration of India’s tribal areas. It declares that any state other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram shall administer and control the scheduled areas and scheduled tribes under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
According to the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, scheduled areas are areas that have been designated as such by the President of India and are predominately inhabited by tribal tribes.
Article 244(1) also states that a Governor must be appointed for each state with scheduled areas. This Governor will be charged with duties related to managing the state’s scheduled areas. Following the requirements of the Constitution and any laws passed by the state legislature, the Governor has the authority to issue regulations for the peace, development, and sound administration of the scheduled areas.
Objective and Significance of the Sixth Schedule
The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution led to the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC) in the four states of North-East India: Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. These ADCs focus on protecting and preserving the tribal culture.
The point behind the ADCs is that their relationship to the land is the basis of tribal or indigenous identity. Therefore, the ways, customs, and traditions of the indigenous people of these states can be preserved by allowing them to have rights over the natural resources of their region. This is important because these people’s livelihood and lifestyle depend on the land and resources they’ve been using for years.
Unfortunately, though this system was meant to ensure the safety and preservation of the tribal people and their culture, it gave rise to feelings of fear and insecurity among the non-tribal people of the states due to the excess power given to the tribal community and the undue advantage being taken by them due to these powers.
The idea behind the Sixth Schedule sounds noble and proper on the surface. But, digging deeper, we would know that there are flaws in it, resulting in inequalities for the non-tribal minorities of the region.
The Composition and Functions of the Tribal Advisory Council
The Indian Constitution provides for a Tribal Advisory Council in Part 2, paragraph 4 of the Fifth Schedule. The Tribal Advisory Council was established on December 13, 1997. The first meeting was held on June 24, 1978, and there have been 44 sessions since then.
The Tribal Advisory Council was a significant step forward in tribal people’s lives. It was established to ensure the welfare of India’s tribal people and has become essential for them.
The Tribal Advisory Council’s fundamental purpose is to advise the state Governor on any matter concerning the tribal people for their welfare and progress. The council makes ideas and recommendations to the state Governor on enhancing tribal people’s lives in India. Apart from providing advice, the Tribal Advisory Council also implements the tribals’ various plans.
The Tribal Advisory Council has a maximum of 20 members, including the chairperson, who is the state’s Chief Minister, and three-quarters of the seats are reserved for scheduled tribal members of the Legislative Assembly.
According to the most recent statistics (February 2016), the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana have Tribal Advisory Councils. In non-scheduled regions, two states, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, have formed Tribal Advisory Councils.
The Governor’s Powers and Responsibilities in the Tribal Advisory Council
Like the Tribal Advisory Council, the state Governor plays a key role. After consulting with the Tribal Advisory Council, the state Governor is independent of everything and may make choices for the tribal people.
The Governor has the authority to determine the structure of the whole council, including how many members to appoint, whom to select, how to appoint these members, and how to appoint the chairperson and other officials and servants. He has the authority to do so on his own.
The Governor also determines the frequency of meetings, which are held twice a year, as well as the day-to-day operations of the Tribal Advisory Council. Governors can also create regulations that benefit the whole tribal population in India, depending on the circumstances from time to time.
The state Governors can also determine which Acts of parliament are applicable throughout these states (the schedule region) and which Acts of parliament are not. Not only that, but the Governor has complete authority in all of these states to enact any law after consulting with the Tribal Advisory Council.
The Governor wields the majority of the Tribal Advisory Council’s administrative power. However, the Governor must report on all work done in the planned regions annually or whenever the President demands it.
Assessing the Efficacy of Constitutional Safeguards for Tribal Communities
Whatever the specific rules on how states are to run the Tribal Advisory Councils and their functions, our main concern should be whether the constitutional mandate has been of any benefit. The data from numerous committees tell us that the Fifth Schedule, meant to protect the tribal community, seems to be dwindling. Despite this mandate of the Constitution coming into effect in 1950, there was a delay in establishing the councils.
This delay may have led to exploitation, which has existed since pre-independence. This is indicative of the administration’s inefficiency. Ages of inequality and unfairness have been meted out to these vulnerable classes. They singled out the developments in the British era, making the community suspicious and distrusting of the newer processes and development machinery brought about by legislation for protection and growth.
This trait in them can be explained by the fact that even after having a fair representation in the political and administrative spheres, the needs and demands of these communities have not been served because of age-old corruption, slow and inefficient administration, compromised autonomy, and self-autonomy and self-governance. This, by default, puts a question on the reliability of the administration.
Moreover, with the increasing demands of the Autonomous Advisory Councils in these regions, petitions were issued to challenge and hold the Governor back. Another way to understand this situation is by questioning if the approach taken for the promulgation of this legislation is just for the convenience of the administration or for making moral, legal, social, and constitutional rights available to such communities. Scheduled castes and tribes make up a significant portion of the country’s population, if not the majority.
Our responsibility is to treat them with the same respect and decency we treat ourselves. As a result, the Indian government should make additional efforts to ensure equality. An essential objective in tribal life is to achieve equality and equity. The central focus should be on treating them as we would treat other Indian citizens. And we can only do that if we provide them equal opportunities to demonstrate their worth.
We should also create a sense of belonging in them, which may be accomplished by emphasizing their heritage and culture. Stop treating them as though they were from another country. At the same time, the government is also responsible for telling them their primary identity is Indian. This will avoid establishing several authoritative bodies and contribute to the country’s progress through a single administration.
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