The 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council consisting of the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh was held at Chandigarh under the Chairmanship of Shri Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister.
The Zonal Council discussed and deliberated upon 18 items of common interest among the member states.
The major items discussed were ‘Need for fiscal and infrastructural harmony in Northern States; Joint efforts for export of fruits, flowers and vegetables from the States; Sharing of Water of various rivers of the region and also hydropower among States; controlling pollution in the region by setting up Common Effluent Treatment Plants and Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facility (TSDF) for disposal of hazardous waste, contamination of water in canals of Rajasthan off-taking from Harike Barrage and setting up of mini hydel projects on Bhakra Main Line Canal at 27 Sites with total 63.75 MW of power in Punjab.
Out of the 18 items discussed today, 7 were resolved in the meeting.
There are interstate problem of effluents generated from industrial areas as well as from sewage from towns draining in River Yamuna and Ghaggar as well as canals of Rajasthan. In a major step forward all the member states unanimously agreed to jointly tackle the problem of water pollution under the guidance of Central Pollution Control Board. For export promotion of fruits, flowers and vegetables APEDA has sanctioned projects to Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The States were urged to try to settle the contentious matters of sharing water and hydropower amicably through the mediation of the concerned Union Ministries of Water Resources and Power. This will help harnessing potential hydel power at very low cost.
The five Zonal Councils were set up under the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 to foster Inter-state cooperation and coordination among the States. They are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter as a cooperative endeavor for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. Being compact high level bodies, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping national perspective in view.
Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India that have been grouped into six zones to foster cooperation among them. Five Zonal Councils were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956. The North Eastern States’ special problems are addressed by another statutory body – The North-Eastern Council, created by the North Eastern Council Act, 1971. The present composition of each of these Zonal Councils is as under:
Northern Zonal Council, comprising Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Rajasthan;
North-Eastern Zonal Council, comprising Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura; The State of Sikkim has also been included in the North Eastern Council vide North Eastern Council (Amendment) Act, 2002 notified on 23 December 2002.
Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh
Eastern Zonal Council, comprising Bihar,Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal;
Western Zonal Council, comprising Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra;
Southern Zonal Council, comprising Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana. Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep are not members of any of the Zonal Councils. However, they are presently special invitees to the Southern Zonal Council.
ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE OF ZONAL COUNCILS
Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
Advisers- One person nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.
ROLE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE ZONAL COUNCILS
The Zonal Councils provide an excellent forum where irritants between Centre and States and amongst States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and consultations. Being advisory bodies, there is full scope for free and frank exchange of views in their meetings.
Though there are a large number of other fora like the National Development Council, Inter State Council, Governor’s/Chief Minister’s Conferences and other periodical high level conferences held under the auspices of the Union Government, the Zonal Councils are different, both in content and character.
They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour 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.
The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as under :
Bringing out national integration;
Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies;
Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences; and
Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.
FUNCTIONS OF THE COUNCILS
Each Zonal Council is an advisory body and may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in that Council, or the Union and one or more of the States represented in that Council, have a common interest and advise the Central Government and the Government of each State concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter.
In particular, a Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to:
– any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
– any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport; and
– any matter connected with, or arising out of, the re-organisation of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.
The present central government revitalized the zonal councils. Nine meetings of various zonal councils and 11 meetings of their Standing Committees have been held since 2015.
Overall 699 issues were discussed in these meetings and 345 have been resolved.