Leh: Prominent leaders of Ladakh on Saturday made a fervent appeal to the Centre to declare the region a tribal area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to protect its identity.
In a memorandum to Union minister Arjun Munda, Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal said Ladakh is a predominantly tribal area with tribals making up to 98 percent of its population.
"After the Centre announced its decision to make Ladakh a Union Territory, the biggest concern of the tribal population here is to protect their identity, culture, land, and economy," he said.
Namgyal appealed to the Union tribal affairs minister to declare it a tribal area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to protect the interests of its people.
Based on Articles 244(2) and 275(1), the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, comprising of 21 separate articles, provide for adminstration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, after setting up autonomous distrct and regional councils.
"I appeal to you to make a representation to Home Minister Amit Shah on our behalf to protect the demography and culture of Ladakh," he said.
"Under the Jammu and Kashmir government, many tribal schemes could not be implemented in Ladakh. Scholarships, hostels, and schools for tribals... not much development work took place here under tribal sub-plans," the local MP said.
At the launch of an Aadi Mahotsav edition on Saturday evening, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) chairman Gyal P Wangyal said their only demand is that Ladakh be brought under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution so that our land remains protected.
J&K Legislative Council chairman Haji Anayat Ali also met the tribal affairs minister and discussed issues related to the land acquisition, job reservation and other concerns of the youths of Ladakh.
Addressing the tribal festival, Munda said, "I have got to know that tribals make up to 95 to 97 percent of Ladakh's population and I promise you that we will do whatever is required from a constitutional perspective to protect them."
There are special provisions in the Constitution for the administration of the tribal-dominated areas in four states -- Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
As per Article 244 and the sixth schedule, these areas are called "Tribal Areas", which are technically different from the "Scheduled Areas" under the fifth schedule.
While all areas under the fifth schedule and the sixth schedule are tribal-dominated, the Constitution calls them with different names.
While executive powers of the Union extend in Scheduled Areas with respect to their administration in the fifth schedule, the sixth schedule areas remain within executive authority of the state.
Aimed at giving a flip to the tribal economy in Ladakh, the Mahotsav is the Centre's first mega event here since the Central government announced the decision to make Ladakh a Union Territory.
Ladakh is currently a part of Jammu and Kashmir and the new UT will come into effect on October 31.
The nine-day Aadi Mahotsav, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), is being organised at the Polo Ground, Leh, and will continue till August 25.
Around 160 tribal artisans from more than 20 states across the country are participating in it.
TRIFED Managing Director Praveer Krishna said the changes in the Union Territory status of Ladakh has provided an opportunity to scale up business opportunities for tribals in Ladakh.
"We will register tribal groups from Ladakh. At present, we have a small number of them empanelled with TRIFED," he said.
Ladakh is known for pashmina shawls and apricots. The idea is to provide tribal cultivators with a big market across the country. Through a collaboration of TRIFED and online marketplace Amazon, these products will be sold in 190 countries across the world, Krishna said.