Get serious

It is unfortunate that there  was no agreement on the formation of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) at the chief ministers’ conference on national security in Delhi on Wednesday. Instead it seemed that the opposition to the proposal has become stronger.

Chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, especially Gujarat’s Narendra Modi, rejected the proposal altogether as they argued that it violated the federal balance of powers. Non-BJP opposition states wanted more debate on the idea. But the meeting also saw the opposition to the proposal widening with Congress chief ministers also expressing  some reservations over it. Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan wanted some provisions in the draft  proposal re-examined and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah wanted some more safeguards incorporated in it.

Ever since the NCTC was proposed after the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, the proposal has undergone a number of changes. The Centre had first made a mistake by making a unilateral announcement but it later tried to accommodate the states’ concerns over the structure and functioning of the body. The latest version is a much diluted form of the original idea. The Centre has offered to keep the agency away from the Intelligence Bureau. Instead an inter-state intelligence  team would be formed to support it. The NCTC also will not act without the knowledge of state police departments. It will only collect and analyse information and co-ordinate its operations with state security forces. There are doubts about whether such a scaled down agency would serve its intended purpose.
The absence of such a co-ordinating body is felt every time there is a terrorist attack in the country, the latest being the bomb blasts in Hyderabad  and Bangalore. It seems the prime minister and the Union home minister do not have hopes of an early decision on it. They did not mention the proposal in their addresses.

The BJP-ruled states wanted stronger laws to counter terrorism. But it is not the absence of laws but the lack of an effective co-ordinating mechanism that is hampering anti-terrorism operations. The government should not give up the idea but have more consultations with all states and take them on board on the proposal.  A compromise which is acceptable to the states and serves the national purpose should be found.

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