Uneven Development: Hill-Valley Divide

The legislative intendment contemplated under Article 371 (c) of the constitution, the hill areas committee is to function as the "Legislature" and the autonomous district councils constituted thereunder are to function as the "Executive" and hence, the Autonomous District Council are responsible only to the Hill Areas Committee and not to the State Legislative Assembly or the state government.

The answer as to why there is uneven development between the hills and valley in Manipur is because of non-implementation of Constitutional rights for the past 50 years for the tribals in hill areas. It is a cumulative product of years and years of administrative apathy as well as discriminatory policy making by those who have been contolling the affairs of the state.For instance, there is huge disparity in fund allocation between hills and valley. There is no separate budget for the hills as enshrined in Article 371(c). The farcical programme Go To Hills, Go To Village are all cosmetic in nature. When our Constitutional rights in terms of developmental schemes, plans are already enshrined in Article 371(c), V. V. Giri order 1972 and ADC Act 1971.The ruling government has been acting as though development is a gift and not a matter of right. How disgraceful it is! Tribal brothers and sisters its time to wake up and march forward to assert our Constitutional rights. We are not asking anything outside the Constitution. In fact we are asking for full scale implementation of what has already been given to us in the original Act. The real essence of ‘Go To Hills’ ‘Go To Village’ dwells in ADC Bill 2021. When we are asking for the real one to table in the Assembly, it was outrightly rejected on the pretext of procedural lapses. We tribals have been suppressed and oppressed for too long. We have been voiceless in our own land.Far from being true to the Constitutional spirit of Article 371(c), the state of Manipur has been making attempts at eroding the Constitutional concept of separate administration of the ‘Hill Areas’ for instance, the commissioner TA & Hills/government of Manipur on 11 July 2014 and 14 September 2016 issued an impugned order arbitrarily by entering into the area of HAC and transfered the function of HAC under TA & Hills department which brought directly under the control of chief minister of the state. However, the impugned order cannot stand the test of law as the subject matter listed therein are absolutely within the purview of HAC and the same being not referred to the HAC.The state government has been through various state legislative actions and departmental orders and ordinances without any Constitutional jurisdiction has been attempting to curbe the powers and functions of HAC and Autonomous District Council Act, 1971. The recent order of the speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly inducting the 9 members from the unserved seats to reserved seats and subsequently withdrawing the orders without following the rules of procedures and conduct of business of the state legislative Assembly is a mockery to the idea of rule of law.Article 164 of the Indian Constitution also reiterates that it is mandatory to appoint minister in charge of tribal welfare in respect of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and the name of Manipur state is not mentioned because Article 371(c) of the Constitution guarantees the subject matter of hills in favour of hill area committee (HAC).Article 164 read with Article 371(c) clearly outlines that all the subject matter relating to hill areas of Manipur is within the purview of HAC, and as such, minister incharge for tribal affairs is for Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and not for the state of Manipur. Thus, the appointment of minister incharge of tribal welfare in the state of Manipur by the chief minister is fraud to the Constitution which defeat the spirit and intention of Article 371(c). The legislative intendment contemplated under Article 371 (c) of the Constitution, the hill areas committee is to function as the “Legislature” and the autonomous district councils Constituted thereunder are to function as the “Executive” and hence, the Autonomous District Council are responsible only to the Hill Areas Committee and not to the State Legislative Assembly or the state government. But the whole width, ambit, and import of tribal autonomy as envisaged under Article 371 (c) of the Constitution have been drastically eroded through fraudulent state amendments. The Manipur international university Act, 2018, The Manipur Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2018 etc., all these are a ploy to encroach the tribal land directly and tactfully.If the government of Manipur turn a deaf ear to our rightful demand to live together with equality and respect the principles of natural justice, the cold war between the hill-valley will persist forever.Therefore, it is high time Manipur government accommodate the present reality and solve the problem of hill-valley disparity in terms of development as per the Constitution once and for all before its too late.Lastly but not the least, Manipur government should uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit.Ningshimyao Pearl A. Shimray is a social activist. Views are personal.
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