All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) said on Friday that the “desperate attempt” of the Biren led BJP led coalition government to derail the “long overdue” Autonomous District Council (ADC) election by converting recourse is posing a big threat to the survival of tribal populace in the hill areas of Manipur.
ATSUM in a statement stated that the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act 1971 which was enacted in the Parliament of India on December 26, 1971 ahead of the declaration of Manipur statehood on January 21, 1972, with the sole objective of instituting local self governance of the tribal people in the hill areas of Manipur to protect land, resources, culture, traditional practices and decentralisation of governance at the grassroot level is paralysed since the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Rules framed in 1972 has already been defeated in letter and spirit by way of misinterpreting section – 13 (1) of the Mnaipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act 1972 wherein administrative difficulties has been construed as rainy season.
According to the apex tribal student body of Manipur, the inevitable natural calamity emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic compounded with political fluidity in the state of Manipur overshadowed the issue of ADC and “hence, the term of the office of ADC members was extended by the cabinet councils in its meeting held on March 3, 2020 for six months w.e.f June 1, 2020 till November 30, 2020 on the condition that election to the six ADCs shall be held in the intervening month of October/November 2020”. Conversely, contrary to its standing order of conducting ADCs election in the intervening month of October/November 2020, the state government purposefully ignored to initiate any electioneering processes till the end of October 2020, it added.
Subsequently, according to ATSUM, at the request of the state government to give time for preparation of ADC election as the electioneering process which normally takes 90-100 days, an agreement was signed between ATSUM and the state government on 4th November 2020. “Accordingly, the state cabinet meeting held on November 10, 2020 resolved that the existing seats of ADC shall deem to be vacant after November 30, 2020,” it also said. The outcome of the meeting was conveyed to the State Election Commission for compliance and to publish draft electoral roll at an appointed time so that elections to the ADCs are completed on time vide letter dated November 13, 2020 by Tribal Affairs and Hills, Govt. of Manipur, further stated ATSUM. Further, on receipt of letter from state election commission vide letter no. 7/1/2020-SEC (ADC), an approval to the proposed date i.e. 18/01/2021 (Monday) as the last date for draft publication of electoral rolls for ADCs 2021 was conveyed by TA & Hills, government of Manipur, the statement of ATSUM added.
The tribal student body then said that in the course of time, the state Election Commission, Manipur furnished tentative schedule for general elections to the ADCs dated January 13, 2021 wherein, the notification of election to the Members of ADCs be published on 17/02/2021 (Wednesday) and the poll date be in the third week of March 2021 and all election processes to be completed by second week of April 2021. “Although the draft publication of electoral rolls for District Councils 2021 were published by respective returning officers/SDOs, notification for holding elections to the six ADCs is still in limbo inspite of relentless efforts shoulder by ATSUM,” the statement pointed out.
ATSUM then recalled that the power and function of ADCs being under the scheduled matter of HAC, the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) in its meeting dated October 8, 2020 recommended for timely conduct of ADC election and for that matter, the recommendation of the HAC for timely election is the basis for the state cabinet to act upon in letter and spirit. “As however, the recommendation of the HAC for timely election is arbitrarily ignored by the state government,” the student body said.
It alleged that the intention of the state government to ignore the recommendation of the Hill Areas Committee for timely conduct of ADCs tantamount to disrespecting the rule of law. “With all election processes completed, no valid reason will justify for procrastination,” it stated. “The tribal brethrens from nook and corner of the hill areas are now anxiously waiting for ADC Election announcement by March end, for a positive outcome,” the tribal student body said, while cautioning, “If the cabinet meeting fails to fructify the aspiration of the tribals, social upheavals in various forms of agitation may be a just cause to express resentment over the present dispensation”.