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PM assures CMs on anti-terror hub, creation to go ahead

Tuesday February 21, 2012 10:27:51 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday sought to reach out to seven of the over 10 chief ministers opposing the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in its present format, assuring extensive consultations and redressing their concerns but stopped short of putting the decision on hold.

The prime minister also explained to the chief ministers the purpose of having the institution under the control of the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

"I noted your concerns and am asking the (union) home minister to address them suitably in consultation with the chief ministers," the prime minister said in his letter to chief ministers of Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

West Bengal is ruled by Trinamool Congress's Mamata Banerjee, a key ally of the United Progress Alliance at the centre. Other chief ministers to oppose the move are from the states of Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karnataka and Jharkhand.

"The primary purpose of NCTC is to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts across the country and it is for this reason that NCTC has been located within IB and not as a separate organisation," he said in the three-para letter.

The resistance to the anti-terror intelligence hub, which is the brainchild of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, continued to grow after it was first voiced by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The states' overwhelming opposition for the proposed NCTC was on the grounds that it will be under the IB, which is out of the purview of parliamentary oversight, and infringe upon the states' powers to deal with terrorism.

Meanwhile, government sources said the home ministry was preparing a dossier on the anti-terror agency that will be forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office.

"The document is aimed at to clear all the misgivings (on the NCTC) that have been raised," an official said.

Earlier, IT and Communication Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters in Lucknow that the government was ready for a dialogue on the issue.

"If they (state chief ministers) have any concerns, there is no problem in having a dialogue...If there is any misgiving, no problem, we can have a dialogue," Sibal said.

The opposition to the NCTC has grown with with various chief ministers voicing concerns about it because it has powers that they say will infringe on the rights of states, affecting the country's federal structure.

The agency, which becomes functional March 1, has the power to make arrests or searches in terrorism-hit states without seeking permission from their governments.

On Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the latest to demand talks on the raging row, did not speak for or against the NCTC but said there has been no consultation with state government over it.

"There has been no discussion between state government and the central government on the issue of NCTC," Abdullah told reporters at an official function in a Kashmir village.

Asked if he favoured or opposed the government move to create an anti-terror intelligence hub under the union home ministry, Abdullah, who rules the state jointly with the Congress, said he wouldn't share his views publicly.

Sibal in Lucknow said state governments would be represented by regional centers of the NCTC.

"There is a central council of NCTC. The director and three joint directors of NCTC and the heads of the anti-terrorist organisations or forces of each states are represented in it. Each state is represented. And they look after the overall activities of the NCTC. So this is the rationale of moving forward," he said.

He said the counter-terror powers that were with the central government have been given to the agency and there was no new law that would usurp the powers of states and disturb the federal structure.









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