Union home minister Amit Shah chaired the 29th meeting of the Southern Zonal Council comprising Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, and Union Territories of Puducherry, Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in Tirupati on Sunday.
The need for strong Centre-state and inter-state relations in the true spirit of federalism lay at the heart of the meet. Here are the key takeaways from what the home minister said:
- States should speed up the administration of second dose of COVID-19 vaccinations below sub-division level and chief ministers and officers should monitor the progress.
- The government of India has initiated the process to amend the IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act and states should submit their inputs for the amendments.
- Chief ministers should prioritise addressing the menace of narcotics.
- States should create an independent institution of director of prosecution to speed up prosecutions.
- Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative a National Forensic Science University and a Rashtriya Raksha University has been established. All states should establish at least one forensic science college with a syllabus in the local language, so that they can have trained manpower that can meet the needs of forensic investigation.
- There should be zero tolerance to POCSO crimes and POCSO cases should be given priority. Time frame of 60 days should be adhered to.
- The Centre has decided to observe 15 November as Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas. It will be observed every year through various formats spread over one week to highlight the contribution of tribal communities to the Freedom Struggle and national development. The home minister urged the chief ministers to develop an action plan in their states to showcase and highlight the contribution of the tribal people to India’s Freedom Struggle and to development of their states.
Chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, Basavaraj Bommai and N Rangasamy respectively, attended the meeting while those of Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala skipped the meet.
Telangana Governor and Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Admiral DK Joshi, administrator of Lakshadweep Islands Praful Khoda Patel were present at the meet. Telangana home minister Mahmood Ali, Kerala finance minister KN Balagopal and Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudi represented their states. Here's what the states demanded:
- Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy made a strong pitch for granting special category status to the state. Besides he took up various pending issues related to the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 and sought speedy resolution of issues with Telangana, with the intervention of the Centre.
- Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai asserted his state's rights on inter-state rivers like Cauvery, inter-linking of rivers and said Karnataka should get its rightful share in Cauvery, Krishna and Pennar river basins.
- Puducherry chief minister N Rangasamy wanted the Centre to earmark at least Rs 1,500 crore as additional central assistance to the territorial government in next year's budget to compensate the loss in revenue over GST.
- The Telangana government, represented by its Home Minister Mahmood Ali, said it was ready to sort out some pending issues with the AP government in an amicable manner through discussions.
- Tamil Nadu government raised the issue of size and capacity of fishing boats to be used in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone and the transfer of railway lands for Metro Rail projects.
- Kerala presented its case for the prevention of antimicrobial resistance by regulating their use and prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
The home minister later tweeted:
Zonal Councils are advisory bodies in nature and yet we have been able to successfully solve many issues. This platform provides an opportunity for interaction at the highest level amongst members.
40 out of 51 pending issues were resolved in the context of today’s meeting. pic.twitter.com/tIuytBPuDB
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) November 14, 2021
Five Zonal Councils were set up in 1957 under Section 15-22 of the States Re-organization Act, 1956. The home minister is the chairman of each of these five Zonal Councils and the chief ministers of the host state (to be chosen by rotation every year) is the vice-chairman. Two more ministers from each state are nominated as members by the governor.
The Zonal Councils provide a forum for resolving disputes and irritants between Centre and states and among the states in the zone. The Councils discuss a broad range of issues which include boundary-related disputes, security, infrastructure-related matters like road, transport, industries, water, and power, matters pertaining to forests and environment, housing, education, food security, tourism and transport.
With input from agencies