Evading a direct reply on the possible inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, the Union Home Ministry has informed a Parliamentary panel that the main objective of the inclusion of tribal populations under the said schedule is to ensure their overall socio-economic development, which the Union Territory’s administration “has already been taking care of since its creation”.
On August 5, 2019, the former State of Jammu & Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh, the latter without a Legislative Assembly.
After its special status was removed, several political groups in Ladakh have been demanding that land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh, should be protected under the Sixth Schedule. The Schedule protects tribal populations, providing autonomy to communities through the creation of Autonomous Development Councils, which can frame laws on land, public health and agriculture. As of now, ten autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
In 2021, Ladakh’s only member in the Lok Sabha, the BJP’s Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, demanded constitutional safeguards by amending the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Council (LAHDC) Act for the protection of land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs tabled a report in the Rajya Sabha which said that, according to the 2011 Census, the tribal population in the Union Territory of Ladakh is 2,18,355, that is 79.61% of the total population of 2,74,289. The committee recommended that special status may be granted to the Union Territory of Ladakh considering the developmental requirements of the tribal population. The report said: “The Committee further recommends that the possibility of including Ladakh in fifth or sixth Schedule may be examined.”
Responding to this, the Ministry stated that “the main objective for inclusion of tribal population under fifth/sixth schedule is to ensure their overall socio-economic development, which, the UT Administration has already been taking care of since its creation. Sufficient funds are being provided to to Ladakh to meet its overall developmental requirements”.
It added that the Ladakh administration had recently increased the reservation for Scheduled Tribes in direct recruitment from 10% to 45%, which would help the tribal population significantly in its development.
The apex body for Leh, a group comprising all political parties in Ladakh, the influential Buddhist association, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), have been demanding Statehood for Ladakh and protection under the Sixth Schedule. Sajjad Kargili of the KDA said they would intensify their protest in the coming days to demand the special status.