The idea of creation of Zonal Councils was mooted by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956 when during the course of debate on the report of the States Re-organisation Commission, he suggested that the States proposed to be reorganised may be grouped into four or five zones having an Advisory Council 'to develop the habit of cooperative working” among these States. This suggestion was made by Pandit Nehru at a time when linguistic hostilities and bitterness as a result of re-organisation of the States on linguistic pattern were threatening the very fabric of our nation. As an antidote to this situation, it was suggested that a high level advisory forum should be set up to minimise the impact of these hostilities and to create healthy inter-State and Centre-State environment with a view to solving inter-State problems and fostering balanced socio economic development of the respective zones.
COMPOSITION OF ZONAL COUNCILS
In the light of the vision of Pandit Nehru, five Zonal Councils were set up vide Part-III of the States Re-organisation Act, 1956. The present composition of each of these Zonal Councils is as under:
- The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh;
- The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
- The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal;
- The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli; and
- The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
The seven North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya and (vii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.
ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE OF ZONAL COUNCILS
The Zonal Council for each zone consists of the following members :
- the Chief Minister of each of the States included in the zone and two other Ministers of each such State nominated by the Governor;
- where any Union Territory is included in the zone, two members from each such territory nominated by the President;
Further the Zonal Council for each zone has the following persons as Advisers to assist the Council in the performance of its duties :
- One person nominated by the Planning Commission;
- Chief Secretaries of the States included in the Zone;
- Development Commissioners of States included in the zone.
Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of the Zonal Councils depending upon necessity. The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these councils.
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.
Each Zonal Council has set up a Standing Committee consisting of Chief Secretaries of the member States of their respective Zonal Councils. These Standing Committees meet from time to time to resolve the issues or to do necessary ground work for further meetings of the Zonal Councils. Senior Officers of the Planning Commission and other Central Ministries are also associated with the meetings depending upon necessity.
The Secretariat of the Zonal Councils has also been created by the Statute itself. According to Section 19 (1) of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 the Chief Secretaries of the States represented in each Zonal Council act as the Secretary of the respective Zonal Council by rotation for a period of one year at a time.
The Secretariat explores centre-State, inter-State and zonal issues which are to be deliberated by the Councils or the Standing Committees. The Secretariat also follows up on the recommendations of the Councils/Standing Committees, if necessary drawing the attention of the Chairman and other Central Ministers / Chief Ministers.
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 scope of functions of these Zonal Councils is very wide, as they can 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.
MEETINGS OF ZONAL COUNCILS
The Zonal Councils have so far met 105 times since their inception and have contributed significantly in bringing about socio-economic advancement of the country. Recent meetings of the Zonal Councils were held as under:
| Name of the Council
|| Place of meeting
|| Date of the meeting|
| Western Zonal Council
| Southern Zonal Council
During the above meetings, apart from specific issues relating to the States/Union Territories of the zones, issues of national importance like trafficking in women & children, Right to Information Act, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, naxalism, terrorism etc. were also discussed and useful recommendations/suggestions made.
The Zonal Council Secretariat interacts with State Governments, Union Government and institutions like Planning Commission to explore issues of relevance for deliberations of Zonal Councils /Standing Committees. However, it is open to the enlightened citizens to identify such issues and bring them to the notice of the Zonal Council Secretariat. The Zonal Council Secretariat can be contacted at:
|| 011-23388883, 011-23389818|
9/11, Jamnagar House, Mansingh Road,
New Delhi – 110 011.