Put it on hold till the consultations are over, she appeals to Prime Minister
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Home Minister P. Chidambaram to take on board the concerns of the State governments on the issue of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Dr. Singh conveyed this to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee when she called on him here on Wednesday evening.
Acknowledging the Prime Minister's sympathetic response on the issue, Ms. Banerjee, emerging from the meeting, nevertheless underscored the fact that as the NCTC's current provisions made it possible for its functionaries “to arrest anybody” and “operate in any State,” it would disturb the federal structure: this was why, she said, “all the Chief Ministers are raising their voices.” She added that she had requested the Prime Minister to keep the NCTC on hold till the consultations with the State governments were over.
The Prime Minister's assurance to Ms. Banerjee comes in the wake of a letter he wrote to the Chief Ministers of Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh after they all publicly expressed their concerns about the NCTC. In his letter, he had pointed out that as the NCTC would come under the Intelligence Bureau (IB) it was not a separate organisation and that it was not the government's intent to disturb the allocation of powers between the States and the Union.
The two other issues that came up at Ms. Banerjee's meeting with Dr. Singh were the two damaged gates in the Farakka Barrage that resulted in unregulated flow of water into Bangladesh, affecting water supply to West Bengal, and the need to urgently secure Presidential assent for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill. Dr. Singh, it is learnt, told Ms. Banerjee that the Union Water Resources Ministry was working on plugging the leaks in Gates No. 16 and 13 and that it would be done by the end of March 2012.
On the GTA Bill, the Prime Minister told Ms. Banerjee that the Home Ministry was expeditiously processing it in “the light of the issues raised by various Ministries and the comments of the State governments.” For Ms. Banerjee, who came to power last year, getting the GTA Bill through is of paramount importance as one of the first acts of her government was to broker a tripartite agreement with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the Centre, following which the GJM withdrew its agitation. Now, with the GJM once again threatening to start an indefinite agitation on the issue from March 27 unless the GTA is implemented before that, Ms Banerjee needs the Centre to act very quickly, so that the GJM leadership can start running its own administration in the Hills.
Hold talks with States: Sadananda
Special Correspondent writes from Bangalore:
Karnataka Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda on Wednesday demanded that Mr. Chidambaram postpone the proposed March 1 launch of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre pending consultation with the States and urged him to convene a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the issue and related subjects.
In a letter to Mr. Chidambaram, Mr. Gowda said the type of federalism in the U.S. and India was not identical and the unilateral decision of the Centre to constitute the NCTC infringed upon the responsibilities of State governments as laid down in the Constitution.
The police and law and order came under the jurisdiction of States. Despite that, the NCTC would have powers to arrest, carry out searches and seizures and ask for information from any agency. This amounted to violation of the basic rights of States.
Such a measure should have been properly discussed with the States and their views taken.
Many Chief Ministers expressed their reservations and dismay and opposed the proposed move.