The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh emphasised on better centre-state coordination for ensuring foolproof coastal security in the country. Speaking at the 22nd Meeting of the Western Zonal Council in Mumbai, the Home Minister observed that the states of the west coast of India, while being among economically most developed, were also vulnerable to terrorist strikes. He said, in the light of the prevailing security environment, it is Centre’s priority to bolster coastal security through a series of measures, including modernisation of police forces, better surveillance and acquisition of modern equipment and assets.
The Home Minister said Zonal Council Meetings have been playing an important role in addressing several problems and obstacles. “They are an important instrument of cooperative federalism” he added saying the meetings of all the five Zonal Councils were held in 2015, only a third instance after 1972 and 2005.
Secretary, Inter-State Council Secretariat, Ms. Naini Jayaseelan briefed media about the Meeting’s proceedings and outcomes. The Council reviewed issues relating to coastal security, internal security, issuance of bio-metric identity cards to fishermen & issue of card readers, formulation of plans for countering terrorism, modernization of police force etc. The Maharashtra Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis’s proposal of establishing a Central Marine Police Force was also discussed.
The Secretary further said that other important issues discussed were Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Mission, surplus lands of Central Government for ‘Housing for All : 2022’ and providing shelters to the urban homeless.
Salt pan development
About the Maharashtra Government’s demand for allocation of salt-pan lands for low cost housing development, the Centre asked the state to submit a Master Plan about the total land available, amount of land covered under Coastal Regulation Zone, land under encroachment and proposed utilization pattern etc. Chief Secretary, Maharashtra, Shri Swadeen Kshatriya informed that MMRDA has been tasked with the responsibility of formulating the Master Plan and the same would be sent to the Centre at the earliest.
Issues relating to checking pollution in Daman Ganga and Kolak river due to discharge of untreated effluents from Vapi industrial area were deliberated in detail. Appropriate measures to be adopted were also given. Issues relating to setting up of Regional Development Authority for development of infrastructure in the region, setting up of international museum of Indus – Valley Civilisation at Dholavira in Kutch District was also discussed.
The Council also considered some of the important issues discussed in the meeting of Inter State Council held in July, 2016 under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister. These issues related to bringing back Indian fishermen (many of them belonging to Gujarat) languishing in Pakistan Jails, Internal Security, education and Aadhaar, Pollution control and environmental related issues were also discussed. Out of the 21 items discussed today of which 13 were resolved in the meeting.
The 22nd meeting of the Western Zonal Council consisting of the States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli was attended by the Chief Ministers and Ministers of these States and Administrators of Union Territories as well as senior officers of Central and State Governments. Minister of State for Home Affairs, Govt. of India, Shri Hansraj Ahir was also present in the meeting.
About the Zonal Councils
Five Zonal Councils (Northern, Western, Eastern, Central and Southern) were set up under the States’Reorganization Act, 1956 to foster Inter-State co-operation and co-ordination among the States. The Zonal Councils are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning, border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport etc. They are regional fora of cooperative endeavor for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. Being compact high level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective Zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.