Centre to amend Sixth Schedule: Pillai (31 July 2009/Assam Tribune)
R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, July 30 – The Government of India has decided to amend the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India to impose greater financial discipline on the autonomous councils constituted under the Schedule and to ensure devolution of powers to the grassroots level, said the Union Home Secretary, GK Pillai. He also clarified the Government’s stand on the issue of talks with the militant groups and said that the Centre is willing to talk with any group which abjures violence, surrenders arms and come for talks within the framework of Constitution of India.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Pillai, who is on a two-day visit to Assam to review the situation, admitted that lack of strict financial regulations led to diversion of funds by the NC Hills Autonomous Council and a portion of the funds went to the coffers of the militants. He said that different expert groups submitted their suggestions to the Government to improve functioning of the autonomous councils constituted under the Sixth Schedule and the process of amending the Sixth Schedule would start soon to bring in more financial discipline and to create village councils to ensure devolution of powers to the grassroots level. He said that at present, 10 autonomous councils created under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution are functioning in the North East and the Government is also planning to go for external audit of all the councils.
Commenting on the situation in NC Hills, the Union Home Secretary said that the recent clashes in the district cannot be termed as ethnic clashes as only handful of miscreants backed by the DHD (J) and both factions of the NSCN are involved in burning down of houses, which forced a large number of people to leave their houses to stay in relief camps. He said that the DHD (J) has expressed its desire to come for talks and even submitted a list of weapons. “We have to properly examine whether all the top leaders come for talks and whether the outfit has submitted a correct list of weapons. According to our information, the outfit is in possession of more weapons than the list submitted,” he added.
Pillai was scheduled to visit NC Hills today, but he had to cancel his visit due to bad weather. He said that the officers of the district along with community leaders would meet him in Guwahati tomorrow for a discussion on the situation and steps needed to be taken to deal with the situation. The issue will also be discussed in a meeting of the Unified Command tomorrow before the Government takes the final decision on talks with the DHD (J).
Talks with ultras: On the issue of talks with the militant groups, Pillai said that the Centre is sincere on fulfilling the political and other aspirations of all sections of people through dialogues. He called upon the militant groups including United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to come forward for talks by abjuring
violence and surrendering weapons. He reminded the militants that after the twin tower blasts in USA, none of the Western countries are willing to extend any help to any militant group and with the world turning into a global village due to advancement of technology, the militants must realize that they would be left behind in the development process if they do not give up the gun culture.
Replying to a question, Pillai said that the leaders of the NSCN (I-M) have been clearly told that violation of the ground rules of the ceasefire agreement would not be tolerated. He said that some progress has been achieved in the talks with the NSCN (I-M) and “the Government of India clearly told the leaders of the outfit what the Indian Constitution could accommodate and we are expecting some feedback from them soon.” He revealed that NSCN leader T Muivah now uses an Indian passport and even the sons and daughters of the leaders of the insurgent groups demanding sovereignty are studying in different educational institutions under ST quota.
Pillai said that the process of talks with NDFB slowed down because of the delay on the part of the outfit in submitting the charter of demands and the Government clearly ruled out creation of a separate State. When talks with the BLT were on, the Government appealed to the NDFB to join in the talks but the outfit refused and lost out on the opportunity.
The Union Home Secretary admitted that extortion has become a cottage industry in the North East and availability of illegal weapons with the miscreants would be discussed in the Unified Command meet tomorrow.
Infiltration of foreigners: Pillai admitted that infiltration of foreigners in going on and the Government has taken steps to expedite border fencing work and installation of floodlights along the fencing. However, he said that only the fencing would not be adequate to completely check illegal migration from Bangladesh as there would be some gaps in the fencing because of the terrain. He expressed the view that efforts should be taken to improve trade ties with Bangladesh as “in that case Bangladesh would be keener on exporting their goods to India and not their population.”
Pillai, who has taken over as the Union Home Secretary only a month back, also assured that he would soon review the progress of implementation of the Assam Accord.
No question of new State, says Pillai (Sentinel/31 July 2009)
: By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, July 30: Making it clear that no new State — either full-fledged or autonomous — would be formed in Asom, Union Home Secretary GK Pillai today said the Centre is always open for peace talks with separatist outfits if they surrender their arms and express their desire to sit for talks under the ambit of the Indian constitution, even as he said that no more ceasefire pacts would be signed with extremist organizations of the country.
Pillai, who arrived in the State today to review the situation in NC Hills district, was scheduled to go to Haflong immediately on his arrival. However, his trip had to be cancelled due to bad weather, and instead he will now be meeting officials and representatives of various organizations of the district at Raj Bhavan tomorrow morning.
The Union Home Secretary today had discussions with State Chief Secretary PC Sharma on the prevailing law-and-order situation in Asom. He later met Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in the evening.
Talking to mediapersons, Pillai said, “The DHD(J) has sent feelers to sit for talks and has also sent across their charter of demands. But we are pursuing a wait-and-watch policy to ascertain their sincerity to sit for talks. We have received information that NSCN(IM) is breaking the ceasefire ground rules by instigating ethnic clashes in the district. We have strictly warned them to refrain from such activities.”
The DHD(J) had listed eight demands in its charter, including the creation of a State within the State, general amnesty to its cadres, a separate Lok Sabha constituency for NC Hills, amongst others.
Referring to recent allegations of diversion of development funds to the coffers of militant outfits, Patil said the government was mooting an amendment in the laws and structure of all the councils set up in the State under the sixth schedule. “The government is thinking of setting up village councils under the autonomous councils. Once that is done, development funds would bypass the councils to go directly to the villages,” he said.
Admitting that illegal infiltration has posed a major threat to the sovereignty of the entire country, he said, “The problem cannot be solved by mere fencing of the international border. Till the time the poor people of Bangladesh find employment opportunities here, they will keep crossing over into our country. Economic development of Bangladesh is of utmost necessity at this juncture.”
Commenting on the alleged illness of ULFA c-in-c Paresh Baruah, the Union Home Minister said the rebel leader was no longer in Bangladesh and was still acting as the head of the banned militant organization.
Sources said that Pillai would attend a meeting of the Unified Command tomorrow at Dispur as a special invitee before flying back to New Delhi. Stating that the Centre wants to prevent militants under ceasefire pacts from moving around freely with firearms, he said, “One of the main agendas of tomorrow’s meeting would be the seizure of arms under illegal possession of surrendered militants and those under ceasefire pact with the government.”
Delhi rules out Bodo statehood
A STAFF REPORTER (The Telegraph/31 July 2009)
Guwahati, July 30: Talks with the National Democratic Front of Boroland appeared headed for a stalemate with the Centre making its stand clear today that it hardly had anything more to concede after granting the status of autonomous council under the Sixth Schedule to the Bodos.
Union home secretary G.K. Pillai said here that there was no question of carving out another state from Assam. “Statehood is ruled out,” he said.
The home secretary said barring some financial powers to the council “here and there” there was not much left to concede. Pillai said the NDFB did not oblige when it was asked to join in while the government was in talks with the Bodo Liberation Tigers.
“The request was conveyed to Ranjan Daimary. We had told them they would lose an opportunity if they did not join in, but they did not listen,” he said, adding if the NDFB thought it would get something more it was wrong.
NDFB spokesman S. Sanjarang told The Telegraph that his organisation was not asking for anything outside the ambit of the country’s Constitution.
“We want a separate state with maximum autonomy and special powers which is well within the framework of the Constitution,” he said.
“There is provision for creation of a state in the Constitution and if it is in the interest of the people then nobody can stop any group from getting it. It makes no difference who says what,” he said, reacting to Pillai’s “no” to statehood.
The NDFB, which has been in ceasefire with the government since 2005, had waged an armed movement for a sovereign Bodoland before scaling down its demand for a separate state.
On the other hand, the Centre had upgraded the Bodo Autonomous Council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution as part of its agreement with the Bodo Liberation Tigers, which on its part had waged an armed struggle for a separate state for the Bodos.
Pillai, who is on a two-day visit to the state, his first after taking over as Union home secretary earlier this month, today said the Centre would be amending the Sixth Schedule to introduce more financial discipline in the council’s functioning under this provision of the Constitution.
The home secretary said the government was also considering creation of village councils under the district councils to ensure that funds reached the grassroots.
He said it was because of the loose financial rules that huge funds could be diverted from the North Cachar Hills council. Pillai said the move to amend the Schedule was based on the recommendations of various expert committees. He said the draft of the proposed changes would be ready in the next couple of months and after taking views of the stakeholders, necessary laws would be passed.
The senior central official had to cancel his visit to Haflong this morning to take stock of the situation in NC Hills district because of inclement weather.