New Delhi: A meeting to evolve a consensus over police reforms and public order called by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Monday proved to be a low-key affair with several chief ministers staying away.
The meeting, Shinde said, had to be convened as only a “few states and union territories” had responded to his letter to chief ministers last year to elicit views on the 153 recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) on police reforms, management of public order, reforms in the criminal justice system, federal crimes and special laws and the role of civil society and media in the management of public order.
Shinde pitched for reforms saying that police needed a better working environment and to be “insulated from pulls and pressures”.
The chief ministers who were present spoke on familiar lines.
While the Congress chief ministers welcomed the recommendations of the ARC, those from the opposition disagreed with them.
“I compliment the ARC for bringing together specific recommendations,” said Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Himachal Pradesh’s Minister for Social Justice Dhani Ram Shandil, who represented Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, sought special assistance from the central government to improve the police force and help it deal with drug trafficking in the hill state.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said a long-term policing solution will need a more extensive police presence in hitherto unserved areas.
Among the opposition-ruled states, while Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the recommendations were against the principles of federalism, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said the government was treating the balance of power between the centre and states lackadaisically.
“These recommendations are against the principles of federalism,” said Nitish Kumar.
“The balance of power between centre and states has been treated lackadaisically by the government,” said Jayalalithaa.
According to the Nitish Kumar, it would be a serious anomaly if the police hierarchy is controlled in its daily functioning by a plethora of authorities, as suggested by the ARC.
According to Jayalalithaa, the proposal of creating a separate crime investigation wing with exclusive staff was a remedy worse than the malady.
She also opposed deployment of central forces during a law and order situation.
Only seven chief minister attended the conference. These were Naveen Patnaik (Odisha), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Vijay Bahuguna (Uttarakhand), Manik Sarkar (Tripura), Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh), Mukul Sangma (Meghalaya) and Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland).
Non-Congress chief ministers Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), J. Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh), Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) did not attend the meeting.
On behalf of Delhi, the meet was attended by Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna.
Among Congress chief ministers who missed the event were Prithviraj Chavan (Maharashtra), N. Kiran Kumar Reddy (Andhra Pradesh), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Oommen Chandy (Kerala), O. Ibobi Singh (Manipur) and Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh).
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah did not attend the meeting in which several central ministers, who are members of a Group of Ministers on Administrative Reforms, took part.
The union ministers included Petroleum Minister M. Verappa Moily, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Road Transport and Highway Minister C.P. Joshi, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, Ministers of State in the prime minister’s office V. Narayanasamy, and Ministers of State for Home R.P.N. Singh and Mullappally Ramachandran.