The State of India’s Scheduled Areas
- October 10, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
The State of India’s Scheduled Areas
What are Scheduled Areas:
- Scheduled Areas, covering 11.3% of India’s land area, are designated in 10 states.
- In 2015, Kerala proposed to include several habitations, gram panchayats, and wards in Scheduled Areas, but the Indian government’s approval is pending.
- However, many Adivasi organizations have persistently demanded the inclusion of villages in Scheduled Areas, and this has not been addressed in the 10 designated states or others with ST populations.
- Consequently, 59% of India’s Scheduled Tribes (STs) are excluded from Article 244’s benefits, denying them rights under laws applicable to Scheduled Areas.
- The Bhuria Committee recommended their inclusion in 1995, but this remains unimplemented.
- The absence of viable ST-majority administrative units is cited as a reason for not including these villages.
How are Scheduled Areas governed:
- The President of India designates India’s Scheduled Areas.
- States with Scheduled Areas must establish a Tribal Advisory Council with up to 20 Scheduled Tribe members to advise the Governor on ST welfare matters.
- The Governor submits an annual report to the President on the administration of Scheduled Areas.
- The central government can provide directives to the State concerning the administration of Scheduled Areas.
- The Governor has the authority to repeal or amend laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly within the Scheduled Area.
- The Governor can make regulations specific to Scheduled Areas, including controlling the transfer of tribal land among STs and regulating land allotment and money-lending to STs.
- Despite these powerful provisions and responsibilities vested with Governors, they have been rarely implemented, except briefly in Maharashtra from 2014 to 2020.
- The real activation of these provisions occurred when Parliament passed the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, or PESA, in 1996.
- PESA empowered gram sabhas, allowing them to exercise significant authority through direct democracy, emphasizing that higher-level structures should not assume the powers and authority of the gram sabha.
Who decides a Scheduled Area:
- The Fifth Schedule confers powers exclusively on the President to declare any area to be a Scheduled Area.
- In 2006, the Supreme Court held that the identification of Scheduled Areas is an executive function.
How are Scheduled Areas identified:
- Neither the Constitution nor any law provides any criteria to identify Scheduled Areas.
- But based on the 1961 Dhebar Commission Report, the guiding norms for their declaration are:
- preponderance of tribal population,
- compactness and reasonable size of the area,
- a viable administrative entity such as a district, block or taluk, and
- economic backwardness of the area relative to neighbouring areas.
- No law prescribes the minimum percentage of STs in such an area nor a cut-off date for its identification.
Constitutional provision regarding administration of Scheduled Areas:
- Article 244, pertaining to the administration of Scheduled and Tribal Areas, is the single most important constitutional provision for STs.
- Articles 244(1) provides for the application of Fifth Schedule provisions to Scheduled Areas notified in any State other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
- The Sixth Schedule applies to these states as per Article 244(2).
Which States are having Fifth Schedule Areas:
- The Fifth Schedule provides for the administration of tribal Areas in ten states in India, including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana.