Should Delhi be given statehood?
- Why in news?
- What is the present status of Delhi?
- Arguments favoring statehood in Delhi
- Why not to give statehood?
- The way ahead
Why in news?
Recently Supreme Court has sought more clarity on the scope and boundaries of the relationship between the Delhi government and the Centre as at times, both the Centre and Delhi government contest each other’s right to administer and govern the National Capital and demands have been raised to give statehood to Delhi.
The elected governments have time and again felt crippled in decision-making as the assembly does not have powers like other state assemblies. All political parties that have been in power in Delhi have lamented this and raised the demand for full statehood for the national capital.
What is the present status of Delhi?
- Presently, Delhi enjoys the character of a special Union Territory that has some unique institutions like an elected Legislative Assembly and a High Court.
- In 1991, the Parliament, through the 69th amendment, introduced Article 239AA (Special Provisions with respect to Delhi) and conferred the right upon the people of the NCT of Delhi to elect their own legislature and government to make laws under certain entries of the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and execute these laws respectively.
- This amendment, however, did not confer full statehood upon Delhi and powers with respect to public order, land and police remained with the Union government.
Argument favoring statehood to Delhi
- Two power centres create confusion
In the current system, power is divided between the chief minister and the Central government through the LG. This dual control creates an inherent tension between the two power centres.
- Union government exercises immense authority
Though Delhi Assembly is given the powers to govern and make laws on all but three subjects – public order, police and land but the Union government has been violating this constitutional provision and has been exercising authority on several subjects.
- Law & order should be the state government’s responsibility
Delhi Police reports to the Union Home ministry and this ties their hands in ensuring maintenance of law and order in the capital. To avoid the tussle, the Centre can create and deploy a central police force for guarding its buildings and for diplomatic duties. For law and order duties, Delhi’s elected government must be in full command.
- Delhi’s land cannot be under Centre’s control
The Delhi government cannot decide on its own the use that the city’s land should be put to. This leads to conflict at times.
- Delhi does not have its own officers
Each state of India has its own Public Service Commission that recruits bureaucrats to run the state government’s administrative machinery. Delhi, being a Union territory, does not have a cadre of officers of its own and is part of a common cadre shared with other UTs.
- It is argued that if Delhi had its own cadre, like all states have, the impasse between the offices of the CM and the LG would not have arisen.
- National capitals all over the world have sufficient powers
- Experts say even if some national capitals like Washington DC, London and Paris are not states, all of them have a governance structure that gives the local government legislative, financial and administrative powers. Delhi has none of these.
- As Delhi expands, clarity over jurisdiction of the local government will become increasingly imperative.
- Some experts have argued that the assembly should be dissolved and the Centre be given full charge of the national capital. However, the abolition of an assembly once created will mean taking away the democratic rights of the people.
Why not to give the statehood?
- Delhi is different than other UTs because as the nation’s capital, it must reflect the best that the country offers. And that is only possible if land-use, zoning plans and building regulations are managed in consonance with the standards expected of a capital city. Parallels cannot be drawn with state capitals like Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai (although that is constantly being done).
- Statehood would bring land allocation under the city government, whose concern for the country’s capital would yield to satiating local demands.
- In the national capital, the protection of dignitaries and the maintenance of public order are the highest priorities. The upkeep of maximum standards of security is how the safety of the capital is judged. An attack on a Union minister or diplomat would guarantee an ‘unsafe’ tag not just for Delhi but the country. So, police cannot be kept solely in the hands of state government.
- An important point against the grant of statehood to the Delhi is the inability of its city government to bear the cost of police salaries and the pension liabilities of all city government employees, which are today borne entirely by the Centre.
- It would weaken the case for delegation of authority under various statutes which is feasible and a necessity.
What’s the way ahead
- Full statehood will definitely bring better opportunities for the residents of Delhi and financial increments for the government’s budget but not without its own share of responsibilities like provision of top security infrastructure for law & order and internal security
- From the point of view of the citizens of Delhi, what matters is that systems are transparent and day-to-day work is attended to. This does not need statehood—only good governance