'Nothing short of statehood'

At the time of ending his two-day protest in central Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the first step towards getting full statehood for the city state had been taken.

He described the decision of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to send two policemen on leave – on the Chief Minister’s insistence – as a partial victory for people and indication of the possibility of Delhi Police eventually coming under the state government, as opposed to the present scenario of federal control.

Full statehood, which will automatically bring control over land use and law and order, is the big target that Kejriwal said he would now move to achieve.

The 45-year-old activist-turned-politician is not the first chief minister to raise the issue and his Aam Aadmi Party is not the first political outfit to talk about full statehood for Delhi.

The Delhi Police and the Delhi Development Authority, which owns land in the city, are currently controlled by the central government through the Lieutenant Governor. The Delhi government has no say on these issues.

Education Minister Manish Sisodia says partial statehood in the city at present was nothing more than an illusion.

“Why has the Centre created such a situation where an elected government feels helpless in fulfilling people’s aspirations?” he says.

Speaking specifically about the city government’s control over Delhi Police – the force which Kejriwal says extorts money and sends it to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde – Sisodia added, “There has been a deliberate attempt over the years to end whatever Delhi government’s role existed in police affairs.”

Sisodia says Delhi Police had been taken over by the Union Home Ministry despite the subject being included in the state list. He says the central government’s control over the force was without legal backing.

“For taking full control over Delhi Police, an amendment in the Constitution was required but this was never done,” he adds.

The control over the city’s police force has been taken over through orders by bureaucrats, he says.

The last order by which bureaucrats in the Home Ministry completely took control over Delhi Police matters was in April 2012. This directive stated that the state would no longer approve police modernisation projects nor sanction money for them.

The order made the Home Ministry the sole arbiter for technical and administrative approvals.

Sisodia says the time has come to demand a new legislation to give Delhi government full control over the men in khaki.

During Kejriwal’s protest on January 20-21, Shinde had ruled this out and said that in some other countries, including the US, law and order of the capital city was controlled by the federal government.

Former Chief Secretary of Delhi Omesh Saigal says the scenario in Delhi over control of law and order and land is based on the Sarkaria Commission’s report on the relationship and balance of power between state and central governments in the country and changes suggested within the framework of the Constitution.

Based on the report of the commission headed by Justice Rajinder Singh Sarkaria, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, the Constitution was amended in 1993 and law and order and land were kept under the control of Delhi’s LG.

Saigal says the issue of statehood had been raised earlier by previous governments and after discussions not much headway was made as the MPs were not in favour.
“Many MPs, especially from southern states and Maharashtra, have always opposed the proposal. They want the central government to look after their security in the capital, so they want Delhi Police to be under the federal government,” adds Saigal.

Another argument against statehood demand has been that the Supreme Court, embassies, seat of the president and other constitutional authorities are in the city and their functionaries keep moving around, so the central government would be better off taking care of their security.

“Some people suggested dividing the city into two policing zones, one protected by a central government force and the other by the state government-controlled police force. But that was also ruled out as this was not feasible,” Saigal says.

But he says the state government could be given a little more say in issues related to land.

“At the time of the constitutional amendment in 1993, had there been a mention in the provision that the LG would control law and order and land in consultation with the chief minister, then the frequent demands that we see for full statehood would have been less shrill.”

As things stand today, nothing but a constitutional amendment can yield results sought by the Delhi government, he adds.

Opposition parties in Delhi say they too have been demanding statehood for the city, but would take the legislative route for achieving it rather than protesting on the road.
A few BJP leaders say Kejriwal was trying to project the whole issue through his two day sit-in near the Rail Bhawan on January 20 and 21 as if he had come up with something unheard of.

“Full statehood has been BJP’s demand ever since 1993 when party leader Madan Lal Khurana became the chief minister,” says BJP leader and former Delhi unit chief Vijender Gupta. “Accountability of police to an elected chief minister and his government is missing in Delhi,” he adds.

“For a mega city as Delhi, the government should have a say in taking decision on law and order according to the needs felt by the elected representatives,” he says.
Senior Congress leader and former Delhi minister Kiran Walia says the Congress has always fought for getting Delhi full statehood.

“This issue was a part of the party’s manifesto and a proposal on it is being vetted by a parliamentary standing committee,” she says, adding that control over land will expedite development work and reduce the role of multiple agencies in the capital.
“We have also been demanding control over MCD and if that is done the problem of sanitation in the city could also be drastically improved,” Walia says.

At present, a major chunk of land in the city is owned by the Delhi Development Authority, which is controlled by the Union Urban Development Ministry.

Gupta says control over land was the key to good planning. “At present, different agencies plan projects in isolation.”

Sisodia says controlling land in the city will help the state government speed up projects on low-cost housing.

Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh slammed Kejriwal’s approach on the statehood issue. “Rather than holding the heart of the city to ransom, Kejriwal should have come up with a vision document and discussed the issue with other parties and moved a proposal in the Assembly,” he says. Kejriwal should share his views on how he wants to address the federal government’s concerns, due to which it wants to continue keeping control over law and order in the capital.

“If you ask me about my personal views on the state’s control over police, I would begin a discussion with other parties if there is a need to separate traffic police from the rest of the force, or if there is a possibility of handing over law and order of NDMC areas to the Centre and control the other areas,” Singh says.

Some say Delhi has a special status and statehood here is unique as it was a Union Territory earlier. “There is a lot of thought that has gone into the way things are at present,” says an official in the secretariat of Lieutenant Governor Jung, who also heads the Delhi Development Authority.

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