New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) Opposition chief ministers Monday lambasted the central government for not taking them into confidence on key security issues, citing the example of the proposed NCTC, an anti-terror intelligence agency whose powers the states fear will infringe on their rights.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who opened the annual internal security conference of all chief ministers here, reached out to assuage the chief ministers saying the issue of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) will be discussed separately May 5.
"We will discuss the National Counter Terrorism Centre on May 5 in a separate meeting as some chief ministers suggested," the prime minister said.
Amid severe opposition to the idea of having a centralised anti-terror intelligence agency, Manmohan Singh urged states to fight security threats together with the central government.
But the non-Congress chief ministers stood their ground to oppose the NCTC, claiming it was against the federal structure of the government.
To build pressure on the government, three of the non-Congress chief ministers held separate parleys on the sidelines of the security meeting. They included J. Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and Narendra Modi of Gujarat -- all of whom are opposed to the NCTC.
United Progressive Alliance partner Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also opposed to the agency, did not come for the security meeting. She was represented by state Finance Minister Amit Mitra.
The opposition chief ministers claim that giving police powers to NCTC will trample upon the rights of the states and impact the federal structure of the country.
Modi said the central government was "creating an atmosphere of distrust" with its "non-consultative" approach on security issues.
"Whether it is the NCTC, Railway Protection Force or the Border Security Force, the government's unilateral activity is creating an atmosphere of distrust between the centre and the state... I urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bridge the gap," Modi told reporters at the conference.
Jayalalithaa in her speech at the conference lashed out at the central government for "encroaching on state powers" with NCTC that she said was in conflict with the constitutional provisions of listing policing as a state subject.
She accused the central government of having reduced the states to "glorified municipalities".
"The constant attempts to reduce states to the level of glorified municipal corporations heavily dependent on the centre for funds is a travesty of the federal nature of our existence. This attitude is disturbing and the implication of such exercises is not conducive to either state or national growth."
Banerjee whose speech was read out at the meeting, said NCTC "upsets the federal structure of the country".
"I have already written to you (Manmohan Singh) on the matter and will elaborate my views at length and in detail at the separate meeting being convened (May 5)."
Odisha's Patnaik, the first to question the NCTC move, chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh, Nitish Kumar of Bihar, Manik Sarkar of Tripura and Sadananda Gowda of Karnataka also criticised the central government for not consulting the states on crucial security decisions.
"It is being increasingly felt that the state governments are not being consulted before the formulation of the policies and making of new laws, rather the prepared drafts are sent for their comments," Chouhan said.
Manmohan Singh in his opening remarks at the annual meet said the central and state governments need to work together to fight challenges like left-wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, ethnic violence and terrorism.
"Left-wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, ethnic violence and terrorism are the major internal security challenges facing the country... I urge the states to fight them together with the centre," he said.
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