The curious case of Delhi's administration

Pros and cons for statehood are laid out in the pages of history.

 |  4-minute read |   07-08-2016
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Delhi is the heart of India. It doesn't matter how true this claim is, but the city has to bear the gains and losses of being the centre.

Who should rule this Delhi and how that rule should be, has been a matter of great debate and concern.

It's no secret that there has been a buzz around the issue of statehood again after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power in Delhi.

But the Delhi High Court's recent verdict that upheld the administrative powers and autonomy of the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) has given fresh life to the decades-long dispute.

It has also ensured that the AAP government remains at loggerheads with the L-G.

Till 1947, the administrative duties of the city were assigned to the chief commissioner, and the governor general directly controlled it. After Independence, the Government of India ruled the city.

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On March 7, 1952, Delhi got its legislative assembly consisting of 48 members and a cabinet led by Chief Minister Chaudhary Brahm Prakash. But the arrangement couldn't continue for long.

As a result of constitutional amendment based on recommendations of the state reorganisation commission, Delhi became a Union Territory on November 1, 1956, and was brought under direct rule of the President of India.

Respecting the desire for a "responsible government" expressed by the people of Delhi, the Parliament passed the Delhi Administrative Act in 1966, forming the 56-member metropolitan council and five-member executive council.

The system was not an adequate response to the expectations of the people, which culminated in the demand for full statehood for Delhi.

The contemporary administration of Delhi, in fact, is the result of recommendations made by the Justice RS Sarkaria-led committee, which was formed on December 24, 1987, by the Centre to come up with a solution to Delhi's administrative puzzle and explore the possibilities of its future form of governance.

delhi-embed-new_080716043626.jpg L-G Najeeb Jung with CM Arvind Kejriwal.

But Justice Sarkaria resigned before completion of the term, and then S Balakrishnan submitted the report on December 14, 1989, as chairman of the committee.

Parliament passed the National Capital Region-Delhi Government Act, 1991, following this, and the citizens of Delhi got a government with more rights, a better system, a CM and a Lieutenant-Governor.

But the demand for full statehood was not fulfilled.

The democratic struggle of the citizens of Delhi and a consensus in the legislative assembly on the issue of statehood made an impact.

The Delhi State Bill was cleared by the NDA government in 2003. Then deputy Prime Minister LK Advani introduced this bill in the Lok Sabha on August 19, 2003.

But, at that time, the Congress was in power in Delhi and Sheila Dikshit was chief minister. The bill got stuck and it was later sent to the standing committee for home affairs, headed by Pranab Mukherjee.

The period between 2004 and 2013 was most peaceful as far as statehood demands and administrative conflicts are concerned.

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Both the state and Centre were ruled by the same party.

So is this the solution to Delhi's biggest nightmare?

We can also legitimately ask that had the BJP been in power in Delhi, would the L-G and Centre have been behaving the same way as now?

Undoubtedly, there are a whole lot of reasons to make Delhi a state, but the arguments against it also have some validity.

Supporters of the statehood idea say there's one solution to all the problems this city faces.

Multiplicity of authorities and administrative units makes it almost impossible to provide good and unhindered governance.

Differences on the style of working are also evident. Responsibilities are not clearly defined and it's a big reason for conflict. The Centre has total control on police and land.

Absence of the notion of state as a strong political and administrative structure has deepened the feeling of incompleteness and dissatisfaction among a large section of Delhi's citizenry.

On the other hand, naysayers argue that if Delhi becomes a state, the Centre will lose the right to intervene in matters of the country's capital.

At the same time, the city is also dependent on other states for basic needs, and this is not easily possible for the state government to manage.

These are some of the issues responsible for the development of an ambiguous administrative formation.

At the heart of Delhi are its citizens and they should have the right to decide how they want to see the city being ruled.

Writer

Rohit Prakash Rohit Prakash @naamrohit

The writer is an independent journalist and researcher based in Delhi.

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