“Difficult decisions we have to take are made more difficult by the fact that we are a coalition government”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear on Monday that “adequate and full consultations will take place” before the next steps relating to the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) were taken.

Strong opposition from non-Congress Chief Ministers had forced the United Progressive Alliance government to put the operationalisation of the counter-terror hub on hold.

The UPA government faced an embarrassing situation in the Lok Sabha on Monday when Opposition members moved amendments, mainly relating to the proposed NCTC, after the Prime Minister replied to the Motion of Thanks to the President for her address to the joint sitting of Parliament. The BJP, the BJD and the Left parties also pressed for a division of votes on the amendments, which were later defeated. Members of the Trinamool Congress, including its Ministers, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) staged a walkout before they were put to vote.

Referring to the NCTC, the Prime Minister said that the issue had been discussed at various forums since the report of the Group of Ministers appointed by the previous government and the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission were submitted.

Consensus possible

Defending the government's decision to establish the counter-terror hub, Dr. Singh said that the multi-agency centre that was established in 2001 was a pre-cursor to the NCTC and the need for a single and effective point of coordination was discussed at meetings on internal security. Replying in the Lok Sabha to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address, the Prime Minister said the initial round of consultations took place with the Chief Secretaries and police chiefs from different States on March 12. The meeting of the Chief Ministers on internal security, which was originally scheduled for February 15, had to be postponed because of elections. “It is now scheduled for April 16, 2012,'' he said.

Dr. Singh said the idea of NCTC was “unexceptional,” but expressed confidence that differences relating to the manner in which it would function could be “narrowed down” through discussions and a consensus could be arrived at.

Reiterating that terrorism and left wing extremism constituted two big challenges before the country and to all its growth objectives, he said States like Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand were infested with left wing extremists. “Control over left wing extremism and control over terrorism are absolute necessities if we are to achieve our growth objectives.”

The Prime Minister assured the House that the UPA government was committed to providing fully secured living conditions to its citizens and it would take every possible step to deal with the menace of terrorism. “In fact, the setting up of the NCTC is an important step in that direction. Concern has been raised that the Central government is trying to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the State government and it has been suggested that they should be taken into confidence before the NCTC becomes operational. The question of setting up the NCTC has been discussed at various fora.

“I am sure members realise that difficult decisions we have to take are made more difficult by the fact that we are a coalition government and we have to evolve policy keeping in mind the need to maintain a consensus,” he said.

Dr. Singh cited the example of the Railway Budget which faced strong opposition from its ally Trinamool Congress. Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi was forced to quit.

Inflation

Emphasising the need for faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth, the Prime Minister said credible steps in this regard would be unveiled in the 12th Five Year Plan to be presented to the National Development Council (NDC) in the middle of the year.

Noting that the country was charting its course through “choppy” waters, Dr. Singh said the developments in North Africa and West Asia had led to a steep increase in the prices of hydrocarbons, adversely affecting the prices of fertilizers and foodgrains, thus putting pressure on India's balance of payment.

Referring to inflation, the Prime Minister admitted that prices had “become a problem” in the last two years. But indications were that prices were coming under control, he said, but warned that one needed to be “vigilant.”

Sharing the “agony” of the members on the issue of suicide by farmers, the Prime Minister assured the House that the government would work with renewed vigour to ensure that no farmer was forced to take the extreme step.

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