The Congress is trying to push for the invocation of a little used provision in the Indian Constitution, the Fifth Schedule, to control what party leaders say is "unabated violence" in Orissa.
The Fifth Schedule refers to the "Provisions as to the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes" and gives extensive rights to the governor of the state in this matter.
"Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the Governor may by public notification direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall not apply to a Scheduled Area or any part thereof in the State or shall apply to a Scheduled Area or any part thereof in the State subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify in the notification and any direction given under this sub-paragraph may be given so as to have retrospective effect," reads one of the main provisions of this section.
It also enjoins upon the governor the right to maintain law and order in scheduled areas. "The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in a State which is for the time being a Scheduled Area," it further states.
All this has to be done with the consent of the President of India and the tribal advisory council in the state in question. Why this Fifth Schedule becomes important in the matter of Orissa is because the violent incidents have been mostly in the tribal district of Kandhamal and neighbouring areas.
A senior Congress leader from Orissa said that this was an option being seriously considered by the party. "Even in Wednesday's memorandum to the President, we have alluded to this, by asking her to explore all options available to her under the Constitution," said the leader.
Governor Muralidhar Bhandare is being consulted by President Patil, but Congressmen are not hopeful of a quick decision. "This will be a big step. We don't know whether the President will agree to this," said the source.