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What are Zonal Councils?

Focus: GS II- Polity and Governance

Why in News?

Recently, the Minister of Home Affairs chaired the 25th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Diu.

Issues discussed in the Meeting

  • Improvement of banking services in rural areas.
  • Surveillance of rape and sexual assault cases involving women and children, as well as the establishment of Fast Track Courts for such instances.
  • Verification of the identity of high-seas marine fishermen.
  • Development of a local contingency plan by coastal states for high-seas mass rescue operations, as well as encouragement of the Make in India drive through public procurement preference.
  • Various difficulties concerning the western states’ border, security, infrastructure, transportation, and industry.

What are Zonal Councils?

  • Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India that have been grouped into five zones to foster cooperation among them. These were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganization Act, 1956.
  • The Zonal Councils are the statutory (and not the constitutional) bodies.
    • They are established by an Act of the Parliament, that is, States Reorganization Act of 1956.
  • The act divided the country into five zones (Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern) and provided a zonal council for each zone.
  • The Union Home Minister is the common chairman of the five Zonal Councils.
  • Each chief minister acts as a vice-chairman of the council by rotation, holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • While forming these zones, several factors have been taken into account which include  the natural divisions of the country, the river systems and means of communication, the cultural and linguistic affinity and the requirements of economic development, security and law and order.
  • In addition to the above Zonal Councils, a North-Eastern Council was created by a separate Act of Parliament i.e. the North-Eastern Council Act of 1971.
  • These are advisory bodies that will discuss and make recommendations with regard to any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning between the Centre and States.
Each zonal council consists of the following members
  • Home minister of Central government.
  • Chief ministers of all the States in the zone.
  • Two other ministers from each state in the zone.
  • Administrator of each union territory in the zone.

Composition:

  • The Northern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh,
  • The Central Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,
  • The Eastern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal,
  • The Western Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli,
  • The Southern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Objectives of the zonal councils:

  • To achieve an emotional integration of the country.
  • To help in arresting the growth of acute state-consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic trends.
  • To help in removing the after-effects of separation in some cases so that the process of re- organisation, integration and economic advancement may synchronise.
  • To enable the Centre and states to cooperate with each other in social and economic matters and exchange ideas and experience in order to evolve uniform policies.
  • To cooperate with each other in the successful and speedy execution of major development projects.
  • To secure some kind of political equilibrium between different regions of the country.

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October 2022
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