Union Territories have evolved:
- When the Union Territories were first created, the idea was to provide a flexible yet transitional status to several territories that joined the Indian Union under different circumstances.
- With time, Goa, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura have been granted statehood.
Big Delhi needs its own government:
- In 1991, when the 69th Amendment to the Constitution created the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, the city’s population was much smaller. Today, there are nearly two crore people in Delhi.
- Democracy here cannot be represented by a government with restricted powers..
- This is no longer an adequate system, because Delhi has outgrown it.
- The first stage of Delhi’s evolution took place in 1991, when the Assembly was created.
- The time has come to enter the second and final stage to create the full State of Delhi.
Delhi’s demand for statehood:
- Delhi assembly has recently passed a resolution demanding grant of full statehood for Delhi.
Not just a city for the people:
- Delhi is where people from all over India come.
- But it is not just a city for the people who live in it, but it’s a city that houses the national government.
- Here officials and people from the civil and uniformed forces from all national units work.
- It is the headquarters of intelligence and the security apparatus.
- It has a huge diplomatic core.
- All State governments also have a direct stake, whether in land, offices or officers.
Sharing of administrative responsibilities:
- As a result of its unique status, Delhi has wisely been kept as a Union Territory with extraordinary powers to a subordinate State government.
- In Delhi, except for law and order and land (both of which due to the presence and needs of the Central government is within its purview), all other subjects are with the State government.
- However, through the Lieutenant Governor, the Government of India oversees matters regarding Central civil services, some crucial matters of finance, etc.
- While some of these controls maybe unnecessary, they very rarely come in the way of the State government doing what it thinks it should do.
Mostly worked well:
- This status has served the people of Delhi well – with the benefit of funds and a supportive national government.
- While it is true that some schemes and projects could not get sanction due to the interference of LGs, it is also true that much of the work gets done precisely because Delhi has the Central government playing a role.
- This system has worked well, as long a Delhi’s political leadership was comfortable with the Central government’s system of checks and balances.
Evolution of Delhi’s position in the federal scheme:
- The issue of Delhi statehood was raised by the first time by Pattabhi Sitaramayya in 1947 in the Constituent Assembly.
- B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru and others were not in favour and did not oblige.
- However, in 1952 when Delhi became a Part-C state of the Indian union with a Chief Minister, Chaudhary Brahm Prakash was elected its first chief minister.
- The assembly was abolished in 1956 and replaced by the Delhi Metropolitan Council in 1966.
- Delhi would again have a Chief Minister only in the early ’90s with the introduction of Articles 239AA and 239BB in the Constitution and with the passage of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.
Issues with granting statehood:
- If Delhi has not been given the status of a full State despite persistent demands, there must be some major issues.
- The most difficult issue is the problem of having two governments in the same city-State.
- In the constitutional scheme, law and order, security and land are State subjects.
- No Central government can afford to leave these critical issues to someone else in a city from which it is also functioning.
Safety of important institutions and functionaries:
- Important Indian institutions:
- Various important agencies like the Union Public Service Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Central Vigilance Commission are based in Delhi.
- Not any less important is security to the Supreme Court and its judges.
- The two Houses of Parliament and MPs also look to the Central government.
- Safety of foreign dignitaries:
- It involves the safety of the many entities organically linked to the functioning of central government, especially the embassies which are protected by treaties and conventions and are given immunity in various respects.
- There is also the issue of security of the visiting heads of states and other dignitaries.
- This is a major responsibility of the Centre and cannot be given to another entity.
How about carving such important areas into a UT and statehood for the rest?
- There are proposals to carve out the New Delhi Municipal Council area (where most of the important institutions are based) and letting it remain a Union Territory.
- The problems then would be substantially resolved, but two issues will remain: the Red Fort and Palam.
Red Fort and Palam:
- Red Fort is where the Prime Minister takes the Independence Day salute.
- Palam is where most of the foreign dignitaries land.
- While Palam can arguably remain outside the Union Territory, Red Fort has to be included.
State will be deprived of majority of income:
- Red Fort has to remain part of the UT, and if that happens, the major markets of Chandni Chowk and Daryaganj will be left out of the State.
- The bulk of the revenue collections are from these two and Connaught Place (CP). CP is already in the NDMC area.
- Without them the State will be left almost totally bereft of finances.
- There are other problems too, mainly administrative, which will be difficult to resolve.
- The most important one is of policing and law and order.
- For example, there are questions over dealing with processions going to Parliament or to the Prime Minister’s house.
- They will have to be stopped outside the new Union Territory carved and that will create numerous problems of coordination with the ‘State’ of Delhi.
- There will also be the problems of division of water, power, and of drainage and roads.
Way forward – experimentation:
- The current system works. Delhi will have to remain as it is.
- If you ever have a full statehood, this city, given two governments, will enter into many conflicts.
- As for statehood, we have to continue to experiment, stumble from one set-up to another.
GS Paper II: Polity