Delhi's full statehood demand not a new one

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Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Rift, accountability and control are three words that come to mind when one talks about the status of full state to the national capital. In February this year, the Delhi Assembly formally made a pitch for statehood.

After passing the proposal to transfer the national capital under the Delhi government’s control, — except the NDMC area which manages the Lutyen’s Zone — the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) decided to make it the centrepiece of its general election campaign.

The issue of statehood is not a new one. Several political parties have included it in their manifestos over time. 

The State of Delhi Bill, 2016, which was put up in the public domain for feedback, was prepared with the following salient features: Delhi Police will be made accountable to the government of Delhi, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD) will also become fully accountable to the people of Delhi. 

In 2003, veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani had introduced a bill to grant statehood to Delhi in the Parliament in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Delhi. The saffron party had also promised statehood in their election manifestos of the 2013 and 2015 Delhi Assembly elections as well as the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but, it rejected the demand at the Centre.

The demand found a renewed voice once again after the December 16, 2012 gang rape.  Under heavy fire, the Congress government in the city, led Sheila Dikshit, raised a pitch for transferring the police under the control of her government. Her demand was turned down despite the Congress leading the Centre. 

Experts argue that full statehood is not feasible.

“The issue has come up in every election that Delhi has witnessed in the past but this is just election talk… There are too many administrative hurdles,” said constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap.   

“If the Delhi Police comes under the control of state government then it also means the entire expenditure would too. Currently, Delhi Police gets estimated funding of around Rs 5,000- 6,000crore per annum. Additionally, around Rs 4,000 crore is spent on pension. This comes to a total of Rs 10,000 crore per year. Now this is the amount which the AAP government spends on education and health,” said PK Tripathi, former Chief Secretary of Delhi. 

In 1975, Ashok Kumar Pradhan, who later became a Union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, headed a committee to find a solution to the vexed issue. Its report argues that the multiplicity of authorities should be dealt with a separate panel. 

Under the section related to the MCD the committee said, “The whole system of the municipality and control over it must be gone into and the organization placed squarely under the Delhi Government, with such safeguards as the Home Ministry considers necessary”.  

Subsequently, the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had also constituted a committee to look into the matter. Based on its recommendations, the 74th Amendment bill was passed by both the houses of Parliament. The National capital territory of Delhi Act, 1991 provisioned an elected legislative Assembly with a council of ministers headed by the CM. It also made the Lieutenant Governor (L-G), appointed by the Centre, the head of Administrative matters. 

This led to the introduction of Article 239AA and 239AB in the Constitution which said that the LG must refer to the President in matters where is a difference of opinion with the government. It added that the LG can issue orders if he/she believes that a prompt solution is needed in the matter. The L-G can also issue orders accordingly. 

Source: The New Indian Express

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