West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee stayed away from the inauguration programme of the NSG hub in Kolkata by Union home minister P Chidambaram on Saturday, reemphasizing her protest against the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre that she argued, violates the spirit of federalism.
Chidambaram, however, chose his words carefully to drive home his emphasis on the Centre’s role and responsibility in ensuring security in every part of the country, though taking care not to mention NCTC, or the controversy even once.
“Internal security is a complex subject shared by the Centre and the states,” he said.
“Policing is a state subject. But article 355 of the Constitution says that the Centre is obliged to secure every part of the country from external aggression and maintain internal security,” added Chidambaram. The fathers of the Constitution were very wise, he emphasized.
Though she chose not to attend, Mamata sent Trinamool Congress general secretary Mukul Roy and food minister Jyotipriyo Mullick to substitute for her.
The NSG hub, located at Badu in North 24 Parganas district, would serve the eastern part of the country, that did not have a hub so far.
The states of the north east would also draw on the services of this center, which is located right next to the Dumdum airport.
“We want it to be a mini regional center,” said Chidambaram. This center would have 460 personnel – almost double the usual 241 in other centers – as it needs to serve an extended regional unlike other centers such as Hyderabad and Chennai.
Some additional facilities for the hub would also be built in adjoining Rajarhat.
The arguments over NCTC exploded as a full blown controversy on Friday when three chief ministers – Narendra Modi of Gujarat, Shivraj Singh Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh and Prem Kumar Dhumal of Himachal Pradesh joined the chorus of protest led by Mamata, Naveen Patnaik of Odhisa and Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu.
That the shadow of NCTC would be cast on the union home minister’s Saturday programme was predicted on Friday evening when Trinamool leaders hinted at the chief minister’s absence from the function.
Thought the hub was formally inaugurated on Saturday, it began functioning a few days ago.
The government spent Rs 38.20 crore in building this hub on nearly 20 acre of land given by the Airports Authority of India.