National Development Council Meet
By Naresh Minocha
“The UPA government will make the National Development Council (NDC) a more effective instrument of cooperative federalism. The NDC will meet at least twice a year and in different states. Immediately, the NDC will take-up the issue of the financial health of states and arrive at a national consensus on specific steps to be taken in this regard. The Inter-State Council will also be activated. All centrally-sponsored schemes except in national priority areas like family planning will be transferred to states.”
UPA’s failure to honour this solemn promise incorporated in its National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) came to the fore at the recent conference of State Governors as well as NDC meeting. The official speeches and releases issued by UPA relating to these two events confirm the fact that UPA is taking the aam aadmi for ride on the issue of cooperative federalism.
Inter State Council (ISC) has not met for almost five years! No central-sponsored scheme has been transferred to the states in spite of recommendations from two official panels and strident demand from several State Governments.
UPA has not held NDC meeting in any State ever since it first came to power in May 2004, leave aside it being convened twice a year.
With this pathetic governance deficit, UPA’s indifference to regional aspirations such as demand for Telegana State or for a separate Sadar Hills district in Manipur is understandable.
NCMP, which was unveiled in May 2004, also stated: “The Sarkaria Commission had last looked at the issue of Centre-State relations over two decades ago. The UPA government will set up a new Commission for this purpose keeping in view the sea-changes that have taken place in the polity and economy of India since then.”
UPA no doubt constituted the Commission on Centre-State Relations (CCSR) in April 2007. It, however, neither discussed the recommendations of CCSR at the Governors’ conference nor at the NDC meeting.
CCSR had submitted its seven-volume report to the Centre in April 2010. Its recommendations can facilitate good federal governance, inclusive growth and emergence of India as a global economic power-house.
As put by CCSR Chairman and former Chief Justice of India, Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, in the foreword to the report, “The dream appears to have been disturbed and the invocation to the Indian people to enjoy the great festival of life with others gone hollow.”
CCSR stated: “It is hoped that the recommendations that have emerged after thorough understanding of the issues, and have been based on a balanced approach, will see early implementation so as to ensure healthier, smoother and more harmonious working relationship between the Central Government and the State Governments of this great country in the future.”
Instead of discussing CCSR recommendations at any Centre-State forum such as NDC or Governors’ conference, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) last year merely asked ISC Secretariat to study the reports.
In its reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on this subject raised in March 2011, MHA stated: “ISCS has been asked to examine the report and furnish its views to the Union Government to take a view on the report.”
Political analysts fear that the UPA’s delaying tactics might give the same fate to CCSR as meted to the report of National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRC) that concluded its assignment in March 2002.
In August last year, the Government admitted in the Rajya Sabha that it had no idea about the implementation of NCRC’s 239 recommendations as their processing and follow-up action was the responsibility of concerned ministries.
That UPA is not taking seriously CCSR recommendations is evident from the fact that its agenda for Governors’ conference, as briefly disclosed in an official release, ran contrary to the recommendations.
CCSR, for instance, logically recommended that the Governors should not be asked to operate as Chancellors of the Universities.
CCSR stated: “To be able to discharge the Constitutional obligations fairly and impartially, the Governor should not be burdened with positions and powers which are not envisaged by the Constitution and which may expose the office to controversies or public criticism. Conferring statutory powers on the Governor by State Legislatures have that potential and should be avoided. Making the Governor the Chancellor of the Universities and thereby conferring powers on him which may have had some relevance historically has ceased to be so with change of times and circumstances. The Council of Ministers will naturally be interested in regulating University education and there is no need to perpetuate a situation where there would be a clash of functions and powers.”
An official release dated 30 October issued at the conclusion of Governors’ Conference, on the other hand, stated: “There was a recommendation by Governors to provide an enabling climate for them to discharge their statutory duties as Chancellors of State Universities, in a more positive and effective manner, and imparting clarity on the expected interface between Governors and Central Universities in general, and as Chief Rectors in particular.”
Governors, who are handpicked by the Centre, are often at a war with the Chief Ministers in states that are ruled by political parties that do not belong to UPA.
CCSR has, in fact, given a slew of recommendations on Governors right from the very process of their appointment. Why is UPA not taking a call on this and many other recommendations of CCSR?
CCSR recommendations also did not figure in the agenda and speeches of UPA top-brass at the 56th meeting of NDC. It was just convened on October 22, to approve the approach paper for the 12th five year plan.
The exclusion of core developmental issues from the NDC agenda obviously pained Chief Ministers of states such as Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
TN Chief Minister Selvi J. Jayalalithaa, in her speech at NDC, stated: “I would like to place on record my strong feeling that the National Development Council Meeting is being convened more as a ritualistic exercise rather than to achieve any tangible outcome.”
She continued: “The Central Government seems to be hell-bent on penalising non-Congress Governments. This Government at the Centre does not seem to understand that the people living in the states under non-Congress Governments are as much citizens of India as those in the states where the Congress Party is in power. Even the genuine needs and requests of the people are not met by the Central Government. Despite repeated requests for special assistance, funds are not provided to Tamil Nadu while a special package has been given to West Bengal for the only reason that the present ruling party in West Bengal is an ally of the ruling party at the Centre. This only indicates that step motherly treatment is given to non-Congress Governments.”
At the same meeting, Gujarat Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi pointed out that the UPA Government was not paying any attention to the people’s problems that included inflation, power crisis and poor governance.
Pointing out Governors in certain States were deviating from constitutional norms and the Centre was interfering in the administration of the states, Mr. Modi demanded that a meeting should be convened to discuss the CCSR recommendations to preserve federal structure of the country.
How long the UPA would turn blind eye to its own NCMP promises that it gave to aam aadmi, who looks equally towards the Centre and the states to earn two square meals a day?