Kya Dilli, Kya Democracy: The Demand for Statehood

Following the establishment of colonial rule in India, the first presidency in the country was the Bengal presidency, which was based out of Calcutta. Along with Madras and Bombay presidencies, Calcutta became the hotspot of colonial administration. While Calcutta had several advantages in terms of connectivity, proximity to sea routes and an isolation from alien invasion, one of the biggest disadvantages for ruling from Calcutta was that it was far away from Northern and Western India. While Madras presidency looked after the affairs of the far South and Bombay did so for Central India, it was the responsibility of Calcutta to administer the North and West. Moreover, since the Bengal Governor concurrently became the Viceroy of India, he had to reach out to the entire country, including Southern and Central provinces. It was this administrative difficulty that made the colonizers think about setting up an alternative mechanism of rule based out of a location which is convenient and secure.

With its glorious past as the capital city of several Sultanates, Delhi became the obvious choice for the English. The decision for a capital based out of Delhi was announced by the then monarch, King George V during the coronation ceremony held at the Delhi Durbar of 1911. For Delhi, the status of assuming the driving seat of nation’s polity came as both a blessing and curse. It was a blessing as almost all administrative machinery were transferred to Delhi and even today, most government agencies and administrative bodies are based out of Delhi. It was a curse as the status of Capital city had its own price; after independence, there were sizeable amounts of restrictions over land use and developmental programmes as they are all strictly regulated by the Central government or agencies backed by the same. In fact, Delhi presents one of the most bizarre cases of fractured democracy wherein the people’s elected representatives have a lesser role in policy-making. Delhi is controlled by Indian bureaucracy and the regimes at the Union level. With Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) planning to push the demand for Statehood, this article looks into Delhi’s demand for Statehood and its implications.

What is the Status Quo?

Even though Delhi is a union territory, it has a state government, which is elected by the people through an election that happens every five years. The government is headed by a Chief Minister, who acts upon the aid and advice of the Cabinet and both are answerable to the Legislature. Here ends the ‘statehood’ of Delhi. Although the Delhi government has a similar structure compared its counterparts in other States, it is disabled as entries 1, 2, and 18 of the State list of the Indian Constitution are not entitled as the subjects of the Delhi government. This means that Public Order (Item 1), Police (Item 2) and Land (Item 18) are still under the purview of the central government.

There are several critics who argue that by bringing the law and order under the Union Home Ministry, the Delhi government cannot seriously intervene or actively take part in ensuring the National Capital Region (NCR) is safe and secure. While this doesn’t imply that Delhi is facing an acute law and order crisis, there have been several incidents in the past where the state government was helpless in active intervention.

Why Does Delhi Need More Autonomy?

The very definition of democracy is characterized by rule of the people, for the people and by the people. However, with the given nature of the statehood that the National Capital is enjoying, it could be inferred that there is no democracy in Delhi. In fact, Delhi has witnessed a lot of friction between the people-elected state government and Centre-appointed Lieutenant Governor. Except during the times when the State and the Union governments were formed by the same party, there were tussles between the appointed authority and elected authority. This is, in fact, a matter that is currently under the consideration of the Honourable Supreme Court of India.

Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world, it faces water shortage and also has several other issues that threaten the well-being and quality of life. One of the reasons is that there are several bodies operating in Delhi, some coming under the state government and some others, under the union government. With the multiplicity of organizations and civic bodies, often, things are left undone. The region also faces serious developmental issues as the developmental activities are often delayed and halted, owing to the fact that the state government has nothing to do with the land, which is an essential factor in development.

Indeed, Delhi needs more autonomy and must be granted with complete statehood. At the end of the day, democracy must be defended.

Picture Credits: www.jhamajhamnews.com

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