By Ruchika Thakur:
Delhi is caught in a brutal tug of war between the Centre and the State. The mutual tugging has been going on for many decades, and it doesn’t look like the pull from either side would be loosened anytime soon. Everyone wants to have a piece of Delhi for obvious reasons, and before every election, whichever party is in opposition in the centre supports the idea of full statehood for Delhi.
It is a Union Territory with a special status which gives its assembly the power to make laws for all issues except on the matter of land, law and the Delhi police. But even a revision of municipal bye-laws to increase fines on littering requires the government of India’s approval. Thus, the elected government has very limited powers. The union has its presence in the day to day administration in Delhi by way of a Lieutenant Governor appointed by the Centre. This power is given by Article 239 (AA) of the Constitution and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.
Why the call for statehood?
It is one of the most populated cities in the world and with increasing size and population, the elected mandate should be given the power to govern the city. Delhi is a union territory with an elected assembly, thus the assembly should be given ample room to administer for the people.
One of the most crucial matters is that the police is not under the control of the State government. There are 60 other such subjects which cannot be administered without the acquiesce of the Union government, states Shailaja Chandra in her article published in February. This kind of irregularity leaves the state government in a condition of policy paralysis, unable to bring quality reforms without the assent of the Union Government. If the main functionaries are under the control of the central government, then it raises serious questions on the existence of a state government in the capital.
Delhi, being the capital, is bound to enjoy special status; moreover the situation in Delhi is not unique and is reflected in various new capitals around the world such as Washington DC, which is a Federal district under the direct jurisdiction of the Federal government.
Why it is unlikely that Delhi will be granted a full statehood
The city being the capital of the country has important establishments, security of which is the responsibility of the central government. Besides, a capital has to be structured and maintained in a proper function which can only happen if the big brother is in charge. Thus, the debate surrounding the statehood is not likely to die anytime soon.
The Centre and the State are both right in their own ways. The centre can’t let go of control over the capital of the country while the state government requires autonomy for the smoother administration of the capital. The solution lies in the better implementation of policies and working in congruence. Finding a better way to deal with the situation is the way forward rather than strangulating the city by pulling the ropes in opposite directions.