For the first time in more than six decades since India’s emergence as a republic the central government is facing a gang-up of state administrations against it over an encroachment upon their powers.
What has annoyed the states is the Home Ministry’s decision to establish a National Counter Terrorism Centre within the Intelligence Bureau to improve co-ordination among agencies engaged in monitoring and curbing the activities of extremist groups.
Some national security experts believe left-wing groups like Maoists and Naxalites, who have established a foothold in a dozen states, mostly in areas inhabited by tribal communities, pose a greater threat than cross-border terrorists. These groups are active in 220 of the country’s 626 districts. They are able to hinder projects under way in some mineral-rich areas.
Contrary to the popular impression, India is not a federation. The constitution defines the republic as a union of states, not a federal state. It has a Union List which mentions subjects on which parliament has legislative jurisdiction, a States List which mentions subjects on which state legislatures can make laws and a Concurrent List which mentions subjects on which both parliament and the state legislatures are competent to enact laws.
The Union government began with all the powers the central administration had possessed during the colonial period. Later, through constitutional amendments, it acquired a say for itself in areas like Law and Order, Education and Agriculture, which were originally entirely in the states’ domain.
When the Congress wielded power both at the Centre and in the states, constitutional amendments posed no problem. Even after different parties came to power in the states there was no serious opposition to enlargement of the Centre’s powers as the need for national cohesion was widely accepted.
The decision to establish the National Counter Terrorism Centre, described as an intelligence hub, became known through an order issued by the Home Ministry early this month. It said NCTC, which will integrate and analyse inputs on terror threats, will exercise powers under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allows central agencies to conduct searches and make arrests.
Non-Congress state governments came out against the move, terming it an encroachment upon their powers. Ten chief ministers, Gujarat’s Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Himachal Pradesh’s Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh (all Bharatiya Janata Party), Punjab’s Parkash Singh Badal (Akali Dal), Bihar’s Nitish Kumar (Janata Dal-United), Odisha’s Navin Patnaik (Biju Janata Dal), Tamil Nadu’s J Jayalalithaa (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), Tripura’s Manik Sarkar (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), opposed it.
The BJP heads the National Democratic Alliance, which ruled at the Centre for six years and remains the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s main rival at the national level. The JD-U and Akali Dal are its partners. Together the NDA parties, BJD, AIADMK, CPI-M and Trinamool Congress make a formidable combination, whose views the Centre cannot ignore.
While Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah (National Conference) did not speak out, his father and party chief Farooq Abdullah, who is a central minister, voiced the party’s opposition.
Most of the violence–prone states are under governments belonging to parties which are opposed to NCTC. The Central government cannot conduct a successful campaign against violent elements without the cooperation of the state administrations.
The open opposition of Mamata Banerjee and Farooq Abdullah is a source of acute embarrassment to the Congress, which is in alliance with their parties. Trinamool Congress’s support is vital for the survival of the UPA government. By exercising the clout she acquired by putting an end to three decades of Left rule in West Bengal she has already forced it to abandon or delay certain decisions.
Multiplicity of agencies has created needless problems in the complex security scenario. The Centre will, therefore, be well advised to give up its plan which has invited opposition from a wide spectrum of parties and concentrate its attention on measures to improve the living conditions of the tribal population whose dire poverty makes it easy for extremist elements to gain ground in their areas.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, February 20, 2012.