Federal & political

Centre is clearly reaching out on NCTC but is it enough to overcome the states’ mistrust?

Written by The Indian Express | Published: May 4, 2012 3:07 am

Centre is clearly reaching out on NCTC but is it enough to overcome the states’ mistrust?

In the aftermath of 26/11,the home minister announced a new security architecture to fortify the country against terrorist attacks. Instead of a maze of competing bureaucracies for intelligence,security and enforcement,there would be central coordination — a networked intelligence database (NATGRID),a National Investigation Agency (NIA) and a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC),which would be ultimately responsible for piecing together information and acting on it. Like other counter-terror mechanisms around the world,it would process and interpret the deluge of intelligence data from across the country. However,unlike most global models,the proposed NCTC would also involve itself in investigation and operational supervision. As many as 15 chief ministers have been united in their alarm about the proposed anti-terror body’s apparently untrammelled authority — it will give the Centre powers to search,seize and arrest,cutting into the state’s policing domain. They pointed out that neither the US model nor the UK’s MI-5 has such wide powers,and that hasn’t impeded their efficiency. They expressed worry about the wisdom of exempting such a powerful agency from parliamentary scrutiny.

These concerns are valid,and should have been addressed at the very start. However,this government’s inability to engage and persuade allies and states has turned the NCTC issue into a confrontation over federalism. Now,finally,the home ministry has softened its stand — limiting and clarifying the conditions under which the NCTC will operate. It will function through state anti-terrorism squads,and it will involve all state DGPs in its council. In the rare cases where NCTC officers need to intervene directly,they will bring in the state police immediately after. Whether this code of procedure will pacify the states remains to be seen. J&K,for instance,has refused to allow any NCTC action that hasn’t been approved by the state police first.

The Centre should be given some credit for trying,even if belatedly,to address states’ concerns. It must internalise this practice,though,of consulting others and canvassing support for its plans. For proposals as consequential as the NCTC,this dialogue with states can only improve the final outcome. Now the Centre has put a more acceptable version on the table,but it remains to be seen if the state leaderships are able to cast aside the built-up distrust and meet the Centre halfway.

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