IFP Editorial: Manipur needs a distinctive legislative council so that smaller tribes in the state are given due representation in the overall scheme of things and a political space befitting a tribe.
Updated 24 Jun 2022, 7:25 am
Given the complex and diverse ethnic composition of the state, the need for a legislative council had long been felt. Among the 33 odd recognized tribes inhabiting this tiny state of ours, majority of the tribes more particularly the smaller tribes have yet to see representation in the state legislative assembly.
We know, Manipur does not merit a legislative council if it is to be considered from the perspective of population and size. As of December 2020, only six of the 28 states namely Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Telengana and Maharashtra have legislative councils, while it was abolished in the case of West Bengal, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and latest in the case of Uttarakhand.
According to the Article 169 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament of India can create or abolish the State Legislative Council of a state if that state's legislature passes a resolution for that with a special majority.
The existence of a State Legislative Council has proven politically controversial. A number of states that have had their Legislative Council abolished are now demanding its re-establishment. However, proposals for the re-establishment of the Legislative Council for a state have also met with opposition.
The State Legislative Councils are criticised as being unnecessary. It is considered a burden on the state budget and cause delays in passing legislations. On the other hand, legislative councils help the defeated leaders to get a seat in the state legislature. Some states support the establishment of legislative councils, arguing that they represent the local governments and also give voice to people having expertise in various fields.
The Constitution of India gives limited power to the State Legislative Council. The State Legislative Council can neither form nor dissolve a state government. The State Legislative Council also have no role in the passing of money bills.
Members of the legislative councils are either elected or nominated. The tenure of the MLCs are six years. One-third of the members of State Legislative Council retire after every two years. This arrangement parallels that for the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament.
Some of the members are elected through the votes of MLAs and others by members of local bodies while nominations by the state Governor are eminent personalities from diverse professions. That is the system which goes within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and in other states.
But, the case of Manipur is different where there is an urgent need to cater to the lack of representation among the smaller tribes.
The recognized tribes of Manipur are Aimol, Anal, Chiru, Chothe, Gangte, Inpui, Hmar, Kharam, Khoibu, Koirao, Kom, Lamkang, Liangmai, Mao, Maram, Maring, Mate, Monsang, Moyon, Paite, Poumai, Purum, Ralte, Rongmei (Kabui), Simte, Suhte, Tangkhul, Tarao, Thadou, Thangal, Vaiphei, Zeme and Zou.
And, among them, 19 of them like Aimol, Chiru, Chothe, Monsang, Moyon, Kharam, Khoibu, Koirao, Kom, Lamkang, Purumand Tarao etc are in the endangered category as many of them had either assimilated or being absorbed by the neighbouring tribes with bigger numbers.
British ethnographers had indeed identified these tribes as Old Kukis on the basis of their culture, customs and linguistic features. But, they became caught in the drive of Naga nationalism.
However, many of these smaller tribes have a desire to retain their distinctive identity. It is in this context that we are vouching for a distinctive legislative council of our own so that these smaller tribes are given due representation in the overall scheme of things and of course a political space befitting a tribe.