Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at the Conference of Chief Ministers on National Counter-Terrorism Centre in New Delhi on May 5, 2012.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today hit out at the Union Government for allegedly constituting the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) without consulting the States and said the fight against terrorism could be successfully waged only in a spirit of cooperation.
"The proposed NCTC needs a total overhaul and for this I suggest that a smaller sub-committee of Chief Ministers be set up," she said in her address to the Conference of Chief Ministers on the NCTC convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The conference was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was addressed by, among others, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.
She said the NCTC, as has now been notified, should be kept in abeyance till the sub-committee of Chief Ministers gives its report. "As a matter of fact, any discussion on NCTC is infructuous as long as the notification of NCTC is in force," she said.
Ms Jayalalithaa said the proposed NCTC had met with a lot of opposition from many States and even Congress-ruled States had expressed misgivings about it.
"Hence, as stated by me earlier, the office memorandum on the constitution of the NCTC should be kept in abeyance and a sub-committee of Chief Ministers constituted to devise an effective counter terrorist strategy. The Minister of State, Home Affairs, may represent the Ministry in the Committee. Once the recommendations of the sub-committee of Chief Ministers are available, it will be advisable to chart out the way forward based on that. I do hope the Central Government will appreciate the points raised by me and display a sense
of statesmanship," she said.
Ms Jayalalithaa said it was surprising that neither the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs constituting the NCTC, nor the agenda note circulated to the Chief Ministers, mentioned the gaps and deficiencies in the architecture of counter terrorism capabilities that necessitated the
formation of the new agency.
She noted that the Second Administrative Reforms Commission recommended that personnel for the Counter Terrorism Centre should be drawn from different intelligence and security agencies, instead of confining the selection to the personnel of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) alone.
"This, in my view, is the first indictment made about the inability of the Intelligence Bureau to co-ordinate with various State Intelligence Agencies. Instead of rectifying this, the Ministry of Home Affairs proposes to establish an Operations division of the National Counter Terrorism
Centre in the Intelligence Bureau and also equip the Additional Director, Intelligence Bureau with the powers of the Designated Authority under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. This is not only irregular, but also not reflective of the views of the group of Ministers and the
Administrative Reforms Commission," she said.
She pointed out that the Head of the NCTC would be an officer from the IB of the rank of an Additional Director and that its core staff would be drawn from the personnel of the IB
"Officers of other agencies such as RAW, DGMI, NCB etc., who will be taken on deputation to the National Counter Terrorism Centre will not be allowed into the core team and can only function in the outer ring. By this, it is implied that they only enjoy secondary status. Further, there is not even a mention of taking officers on deputation from the State Intelligence Agencies, from State cadres. The National Counter Terrorism Centre is thus going to be dominated only by the Intelligence Bureau and the manner in which the staff is sought to be selected for the National Counter Terrorism Centre provides the ammunition for rifts among the various Intelligence Agencies, which is in itself clearly a regressive step," she said.
Ms Jayalalithaa stressed that intelligence gathering was greatly dependent on the State police networks, since many of the Central Agencies are unfamiliar with the local language, terrorist activities, and so on.
"Therefore, sharing of intelligence in a co-ordinated fashion is the right way forward. Confining the core group selection to the Intelligence Bureau personnel, and providing a second grade status to other agencies, such as Military Intelligence and the Research and Analysis Wing and excluding the State Cadres entirely is going to spell doom and greatly diminish the level of
operational capabilities. A caste structure in a Counter Terrorism outfit with the Intelligence Bureau personnel uppermost in the hierarchy is the best recipe for strengthening the hands of terrorists," she said.
She wondered what were the deficiencies noticed in the Multi Agency Centre mechanism that
led to the formulation of a Counter Terrorism outfit in the proposed form of the NCTC.
"The State Governments were not consulted at all before the NCTC was notified. In fact, my Government did not even receive a copy of the order," she said, saying it was the Chief Minister of Odisha, Mr Naveen Patnaik, who had shared his copy with her.
"Such is the casual attitude displayed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which borders on absolute disdain for the Tamil Nadu State Government. The fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs did not deem it fit to even send a copy of the order to the State Government reveals the utter contempt the Central Government has for the State of Tamil Nadu," she alleged.
Ms Jayalalithaa said any counter-terrorism mechanism that is developed should take into account the views of all the stake holders, namely, the various Central intelligence agencies and the State Governments.
"And there cannot be one nodal centre sitting in the Ministry of Home Affairs, whose nod is required before any counter terrorist response is undertaken," she said.
"Ironically, this Counter Terrorism Centre seeks to accumulate more powers under itself and distance the other stake holders. This will only strengthen the enemy," she said.
"There must be a system of encouraging frequent interaction with the common people living in the border areas and coastal areas, if any intelligence of substance and merit is to be collected. For this, schemes for the development of the coastal areas and border areas should be expanded. And economic incentives for any information that is provided should be given generously. The Central Government can provide funds for this through the State Intelligence Agencies, who will then be enabled to redouble their efforts in this regard. Moreover, a general view seems to have gained ground in the Ministry of Home Affairs that very little of actionable intelligence is provided by the States.
"It must be understood that a lot of intelligence is collected and immediately acted upon by the State Police themselves. It is then communicated to the Central agencies for purposes of record later. It is not necessary for the State Police to take directions from a Central agency before taking action against an unlawful agency to prevent terrorist activity. If the Ministry of Home Affairs desires that in response to terrorist activities, any action should be taken only after receiving their directions then, I am afraid I can only say that they have no knowledge of practical administration," she said.
"I am sure that the Hon’ble Prime Minister is concerned about the fiscal deficit situation and the deteriorating balance of trade. The consequent downgrading by the credit rating agency Standard and Poor's has categorised the global outlook on the Indian Economy as negative.
The time has come for the Government of India to concentrate on setting its own house in order rather than spending time advising the State Governments on principles of administration," she said.
"Chief Ministers of States have their feet firmly on the ground and do not keep holding press conferences after a terrorist attack explaining the reasons for their failure. We are proactive and prevent such occurrences. Instead of encouraging us and providing liberal financial assistance, the Ministry of Home Affairs wants to belittle us and treat us like pawns on a
chessboard, who can be moved around at will. This is not only a counter productive idea but also seriously violative of the Constitution," she said.
Ms Jayalalithaa said even imagining that there could be Operations Division under the Intelligence Bureau, independent of the State Police and armed with the powers of arrest and seizure, was preposterous and revealed a total lack of understanding of ground realities.
She said the feeling of distrust between the Centre and the States had to be dispelled. "Nothing tangible can be achieved by setting up an Operations Division in the Intelligence Bureau equipped with the powers of arrest and seizure. Arrest and seizure are a part of the
process of investigation, as per Police practices, and anybody with even a rudimentary understanding of this will not attempt to separate, arrest and seizure from investigation," she said.
According to her, the standard operating procedures provide lame excuses for the justification behind the Office Memorandum, and "are only worthy of outright contemptuous dismissal by all right thinking persons".
"If terrorism is to be fought effectively, a nodal mechanism in the States should co-ordinate with the nodal Central Agency on matters of counter terrorism. A Rapid Action Counter Terrorist Force needs to be created in every State, which will function under the nodal State Agency. On receipt of information, the nodal State Agency should activate the appropriate force to organise the operation in the manner best suited. State Governments should be given
liberal financial assistance by the Centre for raising a Counter Terrorist Force fully equipped with modern weapons and training. This would be, in my opinion, the appropriate strategy for counter terrorist operations," she said.
Referring also to the Centre's move to amend the BSF Act, Ms Jayalalithaa said the Ministry of Home Affairs should alter its approach and come up front with its proposals in a clean and transparent manner.
"Speaking on behalf of the State Governments, I can confidently say that all of us have the highest commitment to maintaining the unity and integrity of the country and to upholding its sovereignty. But we are afraid that any concurrence given based on good intentions will be
misused for achieving certain goals that are aimed at weakening the States and usurping more powers for the Centre," she said.
She said the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, was an instance of a "brazen attempt at encroachment upon the powers of the States".
"This is clearly a case of the Centre usurping the powers of the State. The very fact that a new agency called National Investigation Agency has been set up, when there is already a specialized agency in the form of CBI, shows that the Centre wanted to by-pass the restrictions imposed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act," she said.