29th Meeting of the Northern Zonal Council held on

Chandigarh, September 20: The 29th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council was held at Chandigarh (Haryana) on September 20, 2019 under the Chairmanship of Shri Amit Shah, Hon’ble Union Home Minister. The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers ofRajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, Administrator of the UT Chandigarh, Lt. Governor of NCT Delhi and,various Ministers fromthese States, and senior officers from the Central and State Governments including Chief Secretaries and Secretaries to Government of India. 

Haryana Chief Minister welcomed the guests.  He mentioned about the significant contributions being made by the State to the Indian economy.  Haryana is ranked as the third fastest growing State and fifth in order of exports from India and GST collections.  He thanked the Central Government and concerned States for signing the MoUs for Renuka and Lakhwar Vyasi Dams and hoped that the MoU for Kishau Dam will also be entered soon.  He requested the Central Government for setting of a statutory empowered Board or Authority for effective coordination among the member States in the region on the pattern of NCR Planning Board.  

Chief Minister of Himachal Pradeshrequested that regular meetings of Northern Zonal Council may be held to amicably resolve the issues affecting the member States.  The Council has played a crucial role in resolving the centre-State and inter-State issues amicably.  He specifically pointed out about the (i) rehabilitation of Pong Dam oustees; (ii) representation of H.P. as partner State in the BBMB; (iii) early acquisition of land by Haryana for construction of Chandigarh-Baddi Rail Line and four-laning of National Highways; (iv) demarcation of boundary with Ladakh; (v) development of an  International Airport at Mandi etc.

Administrator of Chandigarh mentioned that Chandigarh is the only city in the country where 3 State Governments share the infrastructure and various issues are being resolved with the cooperation of all concerned.  He particularly highlighted that  Sukhna Lake has been conserved by them with the cooperation of Haryana and Punjab and has been declared as a Wet Land.  He sought more cooperation from them in resolving other issues.   He particularly drew attention to the construction of an Outer Ring Road and MRTS.  

The Lt. Governor, Delhi in his speech highlighted that the Zonal Council is an important forum where regional issues are discussed and resolved.  In case of Delhi, there are a number of issues for which cooperation of the States in the region is required.  He particularly drew attention to the shortage of water.  Hence construction of these dams should be completed in time-bound manner.  

Chief Minister of Punjab stated that all States in the region are facing the problem of drug addiction and concerted efforts are required to made in this regard.  Post GST, there is need for harmonization of tax rates particularly of petrol and diesel.  He discussed about the demandof water by the member States and stated that Punjab has no surplus water to share with them.  He requested the Central Government for more financial support to the States.  

Chief Minister of Rajasthan informed that a meeting has been recently held with the Government of Punjab to mutually resolve the long pending issues.He said that whatever decision is taken by the Hon’ble Court on riparian issues, the same will be acceptable to Rajasthan.  As regards, GST he requested the Central Government to enhance the transition period by another 5 years.  As per the revised funding pattern of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, the share of State Governments has been enhanced.  He drew the attention of the Council to the problem of locust destroying crops in the border districts with Pakistan.

Hon’ble Governor of J&K explained briefly the actual position on the ground after abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A of the Constitution. This will entail to bring Kashmir into the mainstream of the country and help in its over-all development.

The Union Home Minister welcomed all the members of the Council to the 29th meeting and hoped that this would be a fruitful meeting where all the issues having Centre-State and inter-State ramifications will be resolved with consensus.  He stressed thatafter due deliberations, unequivocal decisions taken by consensus should be resolved to further strengthen the federal structure of the country.  He stated that 20% of the area and 13% of the population is covered by the States in this region.  Regular meetings of the Zonal Council are required to be held to resolve various issues of these States through discussion and mutual consensus.  He further stated that in the Western Zonal Council meeting recently held in Goa about 90% of the issues were resolved.  In the present meeting most of the issues relate to sharing of water and power.  He requested all the Chief Ministers that in addition to the Zonal Council meetings, regular meetings may also be held among themselves to discuss and resolve issues.  There are a number of issues listed for discussion in today’s meeting and exhorted that the efforts may be made to resolve the same amicably.

The Council reviewed the progress of implementation of the recommendations made at the last meeting. The Council among others focused on the following issues:

1. Speedy investigation of cases of sexual offence/rape against women and children. It was decided that no stone should be left unturned to adhere to the time limits of 2 months for investigation and enquiry/trial in keeping with Criminal Law amendment Act, 2018. 

2. The Council expressed satisfaction over release of Rs. 47436 crore plus Payment of Compensatory Afforestation (CA) and Net Present Value (NPV)

3. Report of Survey of India relating to boundary disputes between Haryana and Himachal Pradesh was presented to which there was broad consensus on methodology. 

4. Punjab Government agreed to release dues amounting to Rs. 73 crore in 3 monthly installments of Employees Trusts of erstwhile RSEB from Punjab Financial Corporation and Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation.

5. It was agreed that coverage of all villages which have hitherto remained without any banking facilities within 5 km radial distance by a Bank/India Post Payments Service must be ensured within 3 months. 

6. Quite a few Inter-State water and power issues were discussed in detail to consider view points of various sides involved.  Convergence on data sets was evolved to a large extent. Finally, it was decided that all Chief Ministers concerned need to sit once again together at the Government of India level along with organizations concerned to resolve the same in a time-bound manner. 

7. Chief Secretaries should personally monitor the progress of coverage of villages by bank branches and IPPB. 

The Home Minister also called upon the States to give their suggestions for improvements in Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. He urged the Chief Ministers to ensure regular monitoring at the Chief Secretary’s level of investigation and prosecution of cases in the courts in case of heinous offences such as Narcotics, POCSO Act, murders etc. For this purpose, the States should fill the post of Director Prosecution without any further delay.  He pointed out that the Government has zero tolerance towards offence under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Forensic Science Labs also need to be strengthened to ensure accurate investigation and high conviction.  He stressed on the need for setting up Forensic Science Laboratories in the States also.

The five Zonal Councils (Northern, Eastern, Northern, Southern and Central Zonal Councils) were set up under the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 to foster Inter-State co-operation and co-ordination among the States. The Zonal Councils are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning, border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport etc. They are regional fora of cooperative endeavor for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. Being compact high-level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective Zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.

The deliberations of the Council were warm and cordial, in the true spirit of cooperative federalism and ended with the decision to host the next meeting in Jaipur. 

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