Demanding self-administration of hill areas of Manipur under article 371C

Published on September 6, 2015

By Luntinsat Kipgen

Article 371C of the Indian constitution sub-title “Special provision with respect to the state of Manipur” says:

(1) Notwithstanding anything in this constitution, the president may, by order made with respect to the state of Manipur, provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the legislative assembly of the state consisting of members of that assembly elected from the hill areas of that state, for the modifications to be made in the rules of business of the government and in the rules of procedure of the legislative assembly of the state and for any special responsibility of the governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such committee.

(2) The governor shall annually, or whenever so required by the president, make a report to the president regarding the administration of the hill areas in the state of Manipur and the executive power of the union shall extend to the giving of directions to the state as to the administration of the said areas.

In this article, the expression “hill areas” means such areas as the president may, by order, declare to be hill areas. The above provisions of the constitution may be summarized as under.

Sub-clause (1) of article 371C

1) Article 371C cannot be prevailed by any other provision of the constitution of India

2) The president of India shall, by order, constitute a separate committee and ensure its proper functions for the hill areas of Manipur

3) The separate committee or hill areas committee of Manipur shall consist only of members of legislative assembly elected from the hill areas of Manipur

4) The committee has the power to modify the rules of business of the government and the procedures of the legislative assembly of Manipur in matters relating the hill areas

5) The president may give the governor a special responsibility to secure the proper functioning of the committee

Sub-clause (2) of article 371C

1) The governor of Manipur shall annually or whenever so required by the president, make a report to the president regarding the administration of the hill areas of Manipur

2) The union government, based on report submitted by the governor, shall have full executive power to direct the state government over the administration of the hill areas of Manipur

3) The president alone has, by order, the power to declare an area as hill area i.e. the government of Manipur cannot, by any order or act, annul the order of the president and cede the hill areas under the jurisdiction of the valley areas administration

Functions of the Hill Areas Committee

(1) All schedule matters in so far as they relate to the hill areas shall be within the purview of the hill areas committee

(2) Every bill, other than a money bill, affecting wholly or partly the hill areas containing mainly provisions dealing with any of the schedule matters shall, after introduction in the assembly, be referred to the hill areas committee for consideration and report to the assembly. Provided that if any question arises whether a bill attracts the provisions of this sub-paragraph or not, the question shall be referred to the governor and his decision thereon shall be final

(3) The hill areas committee shall have the right to consider and pass resolutions recommending to the government of the state, any legislation or executive action affecting the hill areas with respect to any schedule matter so legislation or executive action relates to general questions of policy and the legislation or executive action is in conformity with the over-all financial provisions for the hill areas made in the annual budget or contemplated in the plans of the state

(4) The hill areas committee shall have the right to discuss the annual financial statement (state budget) in so far as it relates to the hill areas and to facilitate such discussion the said statement shall, as far as may be practicable, show separately the estimates of receipts and expenditure pertaining to the hill areas which are to be credited to, or is to be met from, the consolidated fund of the state

(5) In its functioning, the hill areas committee shall endeavor –

(a) To safeguard the interests of the people of the hill areas, particularly through accelerated development of those areas, and

(b) To promote unity between the people of the hill areas and other areas of the state by aiming at an integrated and evenly based economic growth of those areas and augment the resources of the state as a whole

Scheduled Matters

The scheduled matters which are under the jurisdiction of the hill areas committee are:

(1) Development and economic planning

(2) Constitution and powers and functioning of district councils in the hill areas

(3) The allotment, occupation or use, or the setting apart of land

(4) The management of any forest not being a reserved forest

(5) The use of any canal or water course for purposes of agriculture

(6) The regulation of the practice of jhum or other forms of shifting cultivation

(7) The establishment of village committee or councils and their powers; and any other matter relating to village administration

(8) Public health and sanitation

(9) The appointment of succession of chiefs or headmen

(10) The inheritance of property

(11) Marriage and divorce

(12) Social customs

(13) Any other matter which the assembly may by resolution declares to be a matter which shall come within the purview of the hill areas committee

What The Tribals Should Do?

(1) Stop the hill areas committee being sabotaged by the legislative assembly controlled by ruling parties and the executive departments

(2) Recall the tribal leaders, who seem to be either not well conversed with or are not concerned at all to the facts of the hill areas committee order, 1972

(3) Stop the post of the chairman of the hill areas committee which was the main pivot of the committee from becoming a mere tool on the hands of the ruling party without caring for the common tribal interest

(4) Hold the government of Manipur and its ministers and bureaucrats who are dealing with different department for totally ignoring the hill areas committee

(5) Insist the governor of Manipur to act as he is duty bound under the constitution to monitor the working of the hill areas committee and the administration of the hill/tribal areas

(6) Push for renaming of the present hill areas committee as the hill assembly of Manipur as it is more or less the same

(7) Insist that leaders of the hill people and the tribal intellectuals, including the media fraternity, to compel members of the hill areas committee to do their job as provided by this important constitutional safeguard

Conclusion

While the tribals remain ignorant about their rights empowered by the constitution, the state government has drastically curtailed the powers of the governor against the interests of the tribal people in the hill areas of Manipur. It can, since 1972, then be termed as the state government designed for interfering in the affairs of the entire administration of the hill areas committee over the tribal indigenous people; who are being subjugated for more than 40 years due to their political ignorance and lack of legal awareness. The state government is not interested to implement article 371C in letter and spirit and make functional as it is going to benefit only the tribals.

What do the tribals expect from the government of Manipur led by Ibobi who thinks that implementation of the safeguard enshrined in the Indian constitution is a negation to the interest of the Meitei ethnic group to which he belongs? The tribals did not get it, are not getting it and will never get it as long as they remain mute spectators. The tribal people should stand up and fight for their rights.

If the tribals can make a good presentation by political capitalization of the ongoing agitation in the hills of Manipur before the BJP-led government at the centre, the chance of success is great.

The writer is a New Delhi-based freelancer.

Related Posts

Tags

Share This