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Address by Justice (Retd.) M.M.

Punchhi, Former Chief Justice of India and Chairman, Commission on Centre-State Relations in the North-Eastern Regional Workshop, Shillong on 30th September, 08 Honble Dr. Donkupar Roy, Chief Minister, Meghalaya Honble Bindo M. Lanong, Speaker, Meghalaya Legislative Assembly Honble Dr. D.D. Lapang, Leader of Opposition, Meghalaya Legislative Assembly Shri Dhirendra Singh, Shri V.K. Duggal & Prof. N.R. Madhava Menon, Members of the Commission on Centre State Relations Shri P.C. Sarma, Chief Secretary, Assam Shri Lalhuma, Chief Secretary, Nagaland Shri Ranjan Chatterjee, Chief Secretary, Meghalaya Shri Falguni Rajkumar, Secretary, North-Eastern Council Distinguished delegates from the State Governments, Autonomous District Councils, and Universities and other esteemed dignitaries

I would like to share with you all how privileged Members of the Commission feel on getting an opportunity to be here today for this Workshop. You all have tremendous The State

experience and wisdom and represent leadership at regional and national level. of Meghalaya and other North-East States represent diverse and multi-hued.

a rainbow region --- extraordinarily

It is an area which is one of the worlds acknowledged biogifted with natures

diversity hotspots, a veritable treasure house of flora and fauna,

bounty by way of opulent forests and network of rivers, and above all by immensely talented people, with standards of literacy far exceeding the national average. This is the Commissions first visit to this part of the country, and I can assure you that we are indeed honoured to experience the cultural and ethnic heterogeneity of this beautiful mosaic. 2. You are aware that the first Commission on Centre-State Relations headed by my

late colleague Justice R.S. Sarkaria had submitted its Report in 1988. Its recommendations received in-depth consideration at appropriate levels and a large number of these were accepted with the objective of enhancing the cohesiveness and harmony in the Centre-State Relations. The last two decades have witnessed significant developments in political, economic and social fields which enjoin upon us to re-visit the Centre-State, and the State - Rural Local Bodies/Urban Local Bodies/Autonomous District Councils inter-relationship with the twin objectives of improved service delivery to the common man, and preservation and strengthening of national integrity. When we speak of greater room for

self-governance, both on part of the States and the entities at the third tier i.e. districts and below, it is conceived within the macro-framework of national unity and integrity. 3. Considering the breadth of the changes that have occurred on the national and

international scenarios, the Commission has been assigned a rather vast mandate, requiring review of a whole range of subjects, spanning legislative, administrative and financial relations, and the growing challenges of ensuring good governance, particularly in the background of constitutional amendments for greater devolution of powers. Taking into account the width of the Terms of Reference, the Commission has categorized the salient subjects into 9 groupings, namely, `Criminal Justice, National `Constitutional Scheme of Centre-State Relations, and Centre-State Cooperation, Infrastructure `Economic and Financial Relations, `Local Governments and Decentralized Governance, Security Development and Mega Projects and `Natural Resources, Environment Land and Agriculture among others. The Commission is of the firm conviction that it can accomplish the mandate assigned to it by a methodology which ensures access to available subjectspecific expertise, and recourse to participatory and consultative process of deliberations. Accordingly, the Commission has adopted a three-pronged strategy comprising circulation of a Questionnaire, encompassing the key issues confronting the country, among all relevant stakeholders including State Government, Union Government Ministries/Departments, major political parties, constitutional experts etc; constitution of 09 Task Forces corresponding with the nine subject groupings; and organization of Workshops on issues most germane to the given region. The first Workshop was held on the subject of `Local Governments and Decentralized Governance at Thiruvananthapuram in March this year in which all the 04 States of the Southern Region and the Union Territory of Puducherry had actively




very useful insights

into the

implementation of 73

and 74

amendments of the Constitution and effective functioning of more such Regional Workshops on different aspects at

rural and urban local bodies at various stages of development in their respective State. The Commission proposes to hold Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar and Ahmedabad in near future before a final Workshop at New Delhi inviting the concerned experts from all over India. 4. The Commission is cognizant of the recommendations made by several Expert

Committees constituted from time to time to suggest measures for an accelerated social and economic development of the North-Eastern Region. When I refer to the existing stock of wisdom and expertise that has deliberated upon the ways and measures for effecting improvement in the quality of life for the people, I have in mind the Report of October, 2006 by the Task Force on `Connectivity and Promotion of Trade and Investment in NorthEast States submitted to the Planning Commission, Govt. of India; Report of July, 2007 by the Task Force on Border Area Development Programme; Report of September, 2007 entitled `Planning for the Sixth Schedule Areas submitted to Ministry of Panchayati Raj,

Govt. of India; and

the magnificent document dated 13th May, 2008 on `North-Eastern

Region: Vision 2020 jointly brought out by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and the North-Eastern Council. 5. The last-cited document, namely, Vision 2020 is truly extraordinary in terms of its

comprehensiveness and remarkable consensual character marked by endorsement of the Governors and Chief Ministers of all the 8 States of North-Eastern Region. I have had the occasion to peruse the document and am most impressed by its sound rationale, sheer persuasiveness and cogency. The Commission could not agree more with the authors of Vision 2020 when they list the three critical non-economic requirements that will condition economic performance as law and order, especially internal security, good governance including institutions of local self-government, and diplomatic initiatives. Accordingly, the Commission has selected the subjects of Criminal Justice, National Security & Centre-State Cooperation, and Decentralized Governance, two of the three cardinal pre-requisites for providing the much-needed fillip to economic uplift. The Workshop also has a curtain-raiser on Infrastructure Development and Mega Projects by way of initial sensitization to the strategy for improved utilization of the vast potential of these resource-rich States. A separate Workshop at an appropriate stage will be organized on the two important streams which are part of the Commissions mandate, namely, `Natural Resources, Environment, Land & Agriculture and `Infrastructure Development and Mega Projects. In the present times, when financial and market forces are demolishing geographical, historical and racial barriers all over the world, there is no reason why we should deny ourselves the fruits of economic development, access to which is as much contingent upon peace and security as the atmosphere of peace and security is dependent on sustained and accelerated economic development. 6. The Terms of Reference assigned to the Commission, specifically enjoin upon it to

have particular regard to the role and responsibility of the Centre vis-a-vis States in promoting effective devolution of powers to local bodies including the autonomous bodies under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution within a specified period of time. The Expert Committee headed by Mr. V. Ramachandran has submitted its exhaustive Report on the subject and given State-specific recommendations for more effective devolution of funds, functions and functionaries to the Autonomous Councils not only under the Sixth Schedule but also those constituted under the State Legislations as in Manipur and Nagaland. There are various dimensions to the basic issue of improving service delivery at the grass-roots, namely, harmonizing the traditional and non-traditional institutions, increasing the participation of women and youth, facilitating the fund flow, upgradation of skills and capacities, sound audit systems, and enhanced transparency and accountability in the functioning of various entities at local level, apart from the inter-institutional organic ties between District and Village-level institutions.


Ladies and Gentlemen, you will agree that there is a lot of food for thought for all of

us to apply our minds to, over the next one-and-a-half day long deliberations. I have no doubt that accommodation of regional aspirations within the overarching framework of the countrys unity is the very foundation of a successful federal structure. Mrs. Indira Gandhi who had observed : A relationship of mutual dependence is the normal one between the Centre and the States. It cannot be otherwise. Whenever I have talked of a strong Centre, I have always qualified that statement saying that a strong Centre can exist only when the States themselves are strong, because we are dependent on the States. The Centre by itself is nothing. The Centre is a union of all the States. 8. I would like to conclude by expressing my sincere gratitude to Honble Dr. Donkupar At this point, I would like to share the profound wisdom contained in the words of our late Prime Minister,

Roy, Chief Minister, Meghalaya, Honble Shri Bindo M. Lanong, Speaker, Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and Honble Dr. D.D. Lapang, Leader of the Opposition, Meghalaya for sparing their valuable time. We look forward to enrichment of deliberations by their profound wisdom. I thank all the delegates from various State Governments in this region for having taken their precious time off their busy schedules to share their experiences and vision for the future with us. I thank you all for your patient hearing.