Union Territories, Scheduled Areas, Tribal Areas

Union Territories

Union territories refer to those territories which are directly under the control of the Union Government. Their administration is vested in the powers of the President, who administers them through administrators. The ministry of Home Affairs is the nodal ministry for all matters of such territories. At present, there are seven union territories'Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh.

Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Delhi (National Capital Territory), Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry. There is no uniform system of administration in the union territories. Parliament is empowered to prescribe the structure of administration in the union territories. The administrators of union territories are differently known as lieutenant governors, chief commissioners or administrators. In Puducherry, and National Capital Territory of Delhi, for example, they are designated as lieutenant governors. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Chandigarh they are known as chief commissioners and in Lakshadweep as administrator. Some union territories have legislative assemblies and council of ministers and consolidated funds such as in Puducherry, and Delhi (National Capital Territory).

Before the creation of legislative assembly, Delhi, had a metropolitan council and an executive council. The 68th Amendment, in 1992, provided a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi, re-designating it as the National Capital Territory of Delhi, which stipulated that the administrator shall be designated as the lieutenant governor. The amendment act provided a legislative assembly for the National Capital Region of Delhi and gave it power to make laws for the whole or part of the National Capital Territory. There is a provision for a council of ministers consisting of not more than seven members, with the chief minister as its head to aid and advise the lieutenant governor in the exercise of his functions and powers. It may be stated that in Union Territories with legislative assemblies, the right to legislate on subjects enumerated in the state list and concurrent list lies with the assembly. The administrators of the Union Territories enjoy the right to issue ordinances within certain limitations.

When the legislatures of the Union Territories are dissolved or suspended, the task for the peace, progress and good administration lies with the President. VI: IV: A (ii). Scheduled Areas The Constitution has made special provisions for the administration of Scheduled Areas in States (such as some areas of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan) other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The right to declare any area as a Scheduled Area rests with the President. The Constitution contains special provisions in respect of the administration of Scheduled Areas. These special provisions are parts of the Fifth Schedule. The Union Government gives directions to the respective states with regard to the administration of the Scheduled Areas. The Governor of the State, where such areas are located, has to submit reports to the President annually or whenever required by the President.

The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 covers the Scheduled Areas not covered in the 73rd Amendment relating to Panchayats.

The Gram Sabhas, in these areas, govern natural resources, its other provisions include:

(a) A state legislation on panchayats in the scheduled area should take care of the customs, religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources;

(b) Every village shall contain a gram sabha whose members are included in the electoral list for the panchayats at village level; and

(c) Planning and management of minor water bodies are entrusted to the panchayats. For the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes in the State, a Tribes Advisory Council is constituted. Additionally, the Governor takes steps to protect the interests of the Scheduled Tribes. He makes regulations prohibiting or restricting transfer of land, allotment of land and money lending, but with the prior approval of the President.

Tribal Areas

Tribal areas generally mean areas having preponderance of tribal population. However, the Constitution of India refers to tribal areas within the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura ff Mizoram, as those areas specified in Parts I, II, IIA, III of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule. In other words, the areas where provisions of Sixth Schedule are applicable are known as Tribal Areas. In relation to these areas, Autonomous District Councils, each having not more than thirty members have been set up. These councils serve as an instrument of self-management and have powers of legislation and administration of justice, apart from executive, developmental and financial responsibilities.

These are empowered to make laws in these areas. The district and regional councils are empowered to make laws on matters such as management of forests, marriage and social customs, inheritance of property, etc. These councils may impose taxes and collect land revenue. The Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (the PEPSA) Act, 1996) made it mandatory for the state governments with Fifth Schedule areas to make legislative provisions in order to give wide-ranging powers to the tribals on matters relating to decision-making and development of their communities. Politically, it gives radical governance power to the tribal communities and recognizes their traditional community rights over local natural resources. It not only accepts the validity of customary law, social and religious practices, and traditional management practices of community resources, but also directs the state governments not to make any law which interfere with these. Accepting a clear-cut role for the community, it gives wide-ranging powers to Gram Sabhas.

Probably the most progressive law for tribal people after Independence, the PESA Act empowers the Gram Sabha (the council of village adults) and the Gram Panchayat to take charge of village administration. It empowered them to protect community resources, control social sector functionaries, own minor forest produce, manage water bodies, give recommendations for mining lease, be consulted for land acquisition, enforce prohibition, identify beneficiaries for poverty alleviation and other government programs and have a decisive say in all development projects in the villages. However, the state governments and officials are yet to allow any meaningful self-governance to the tribal communities.

Grassroots Democracy: The Urban-Rural Administration

Every democratic polity is based on decentralisation. More a political system is de-centralized, the greater are its chances of grassroots level of progress. Responsiveness in governance is the added advantage of a decentralized system. Local government is always good (but self-government is better), as it relieves the higher administration of its burden, but it also awakens and involves the local people and gives them the experience of administration at their doors. Decentralisation functions both at the urban as well as rural levels.

In India, the rural governance assumes importance, because the country still has over 70ft of population in villages, though there are developed urban administrative institutions such as municipal corporations for bigger towns, the municipalities for smaller population, for still smaller areas, there are the notified area committees, the town area committees and the cantonment boards managed by military officials.

In rural areas, we have institutions like the gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and the zila parishads. The 73rd and 74th amendments (1993) were the latest enactments with regard to urban and rural areas.

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