Millennium Post

Centre-state rifts harming nation

Though the chief ministers’ conference, held in New Delhi on Wednesday was on internal security, the wide cleavages in the outlook between the centre and states on this important subject was reflected in the non-attendance of the chief ministers of the important states of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa recorded her dissent,  saying that the reason she was not be attending the meeting was because such conferences held by the centre had become an ‘annual ritualistic exercise and very little opportunity is given to chief ministers to express their views’. This reflects poorly on centre-state relations as also on the worth of such conferences if the perception among chief ministers holds that these do not lead to democratic discussions and meaningful outcomes. Although the meeting comes in the wake of the latest Maoist attack in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, which led the prime minister to emphasise the need for the centre and states to work, like last year’s meeting, most issues at the conference were overshadowed by the centre’s perceived attempts at the encroachment of state powers. Thus, important topics such as police reforms and the modernisation of police forces, enhanced security to women, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and in the northeastern region, or even a new strategy to counter Naxalism were dwarfed by the discussion of the new initiatives which the centre wants to push through but which are opposed by the states.

Predictably, the centre’s proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), even in watered down version, has not been found acceptable by most of the states. Various concerns have been articulated, with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, for instance, having noted that the NCTC suffered from several serious flaws and arbitrary provisions, saying that the better option would be to strengthen and develop NIA rather than to create another organisation. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh felt that NCTC violated the federal structure of the Constitution. For many of the non-Congress chief ministers, the motives of the Centre on this front are suspect. With internal security being too serious an issue, the centre and states must coordinate better, but the states must have their say and the centre must not ride roughshod over them in pushing forward changes.
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