New Delhi, Feb. 22: Mamata Banerjee today secured an assurance from the Prime Minister to put on hold the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) till consultation with states was over and consensus reached, clouding the Centres plan to get the anti-terror body off the ground by March 1.
Provisions in the executive order infringe upon the rights of states. I asked the Prime Minister to put the order on hold till the consultation process with states was not over, Mamata said after meeting the Prime Minister.
Asked if the Prime Minister had assured her that the anti-terror body would be put on hold, Mamata said: Yes, the Prime Minister has assured me.
A PMO media release issued later did not specifically mention such an assurance but with Mamata going public, the Centre is unlikely to push ahead without consensus, especially with the budget session round the corner.
If the March 1 launch is deferred, it will be the fourth UPA initiative to have run into the Mamata wall after the Teesta water-sharing agreement, foreign direct investment in retail and the Lokpal bill.
The Prime Minister yesterday had asked home minister P. Chidambaram to consult all chief ministers and address their concerns before launching the anti-terror body.
Several states, including the Opposition-ruled Bihar, Odisha, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Tripura, have joined Mamata to oppose the anti-terror body with sweeping arrest and seizure powers. The states have said the provisions go against the federal structure.
Mamata referred to the Prime Ministers letter to the states, which mentioned how a Group of Ministers (GoM) followed by a task force had recommended the NCTC in 2001. She questioned the need to implement it after 11 years.
What was the need to implement something recommended in 2001... after 11 years? I told the PM, Mamata said, pointing out how the anti-terror body went against the federal spirit.
The chief minister said that in the name of NCTC, anybody could be arrested, interrogated and police force requisitioned from any station. It contradicts the federal structure, she added.
Mamata said the relation between the Centre and the state was that of a parent and child and, therefore, Delhi should take care of its children. We (states) are not in favour of terrorists. We are against the provisions in the NCTC that are against the federal structure,she said.
During the 15-minute meeting with the Prime Minister, Mamata raised Bengal-specific issues relating to the huge loss of water to Bangladesh from Farakka and delay by the Centre in securing the Presidents assent over the Gorkhaland Tripartite Agreement (GTA).
Mamata vehemently denied that her meeting with the Prime Minister had anything to do with iterating the demand for financial assistance for Bengal. Apart from these three issues, we did not discuss anything, said Mamata who later called on finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Over the GTA, the Prime Minister assured that the paperwork would be completed in a day or two and sent to the President to secure her assent, she said, adding how the delay by the Centre would affect the efforts of the state government to settle the hill issue.
The PMO release said: The Prime Minister informed the chief minister that the ministry of home affairs is expeditiously processing the bill in the light of the issues raised by various ministries and the comments of the state governments. The Prime Minister assured the chief minister that the ministry of home affairs will complete the processing of the bill soon.
Stress on Farakka
Mamata was most emphatic with the Prime Minister on Farakka. She demanded a high-level inquiry into the leak of water to Bangladesh because two lock gates were lying broken for several months. She also sought compensation for Bengal for the loss of water and power.
Mamata termed the leak man-made. It is a serious issue. Instead of 33 per cent as per the agreement, 88 per cent water has gone to Bangladesh. There is no water in the Haldi and Bhagirathi rivers, an angry chief minister said.
Mamata said the Prime Minister expressed concern over the issue and assured her that an inquiry would be held. But who will compensate for the huge loss Bengal has suffered? she asked.
However, she refrained from stating whether she insisted that the Centre should pay the compensation.
The PMO release said the Prime Minister shared the chief ministers concern and assured her that the ministry of water resources is working on plugging the leaks in Gate No. 16 and Gate No. 13 by March this year.