River water and cybercrime prime concerns at meeting of northern states

While the Ministry of Home Affairs flagged the sharp rise in cybercrime, several chief ministers voiced their concern at depleting water supply

Photo courtesy: Twitter/@ashokgehlot51
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@ashokgehlot51

Prakash Bhandari

The one-day meeting at Jaipur on Saturday of the Northern Zonal Council, its 30th, discussed as many as 47 issues, 35 of which were resolved, claimed the Ministry of Home Affairs. Union Home Minister Amit Shah flagged the sharp rise in cases of cybercrime and announced that a committee headed by the Union Home Secretary had been constituted to finalise a plan to deal with the threat.

In view of the profound impact of cybercrimes on national security, public order and economic activity, said Shah, states needed to run awareness campaigns. Police officers, public prosecutors, telecom companies and their agents, he asserted, needed to be trained and made aware of new technology. There has been a five-fold jump in cybercrime between 2018 and 2021 and in cases of phishing attacks, ransomware attacks and financial frauds. From around two lakh cases reported in 2018, the number went up to 14 lakhs in 2021, the meeting was informed.

As many as 2,12,485 cases were reported in the first two months of 2022. The cases reported were the highest in Karnataka (16.2 percent) followed by Telangana (13.4 percent) and Assam (10.1) percent.

The 30th meeting of the Council was attended among others by Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Delhi's LG Vinai Kumar Saxena, Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Ladakh's LG R. K. Mathur and Chandigarh's Administrator Banvari Lal Purohit besides senior officials from the states.

Sharing of river water was the concern of several chief ministers, who felt that their states were not being treated fairly. The Home Minister advocated a conciliatory approach and pointed out that though the Council was ‘advisory’ in nature, two-thirds of the issues raised were being resolved by consensus.

The Council identified four issues of national concern, namely

banking services in rural areas, monitoring cases of rape and sexual offenses against women and children, setting up fast-track courts for such cases, and implementing Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot pleaded for the release of Rs 5000 Crores as GST compensation to Rajasthan, which has been pending for long. Gehlot asked the central government to extend the GST compensation period by five years from June 2022 to June 2027. The Rajasthan CM also demanded representation of the state in the Bhakra-Beas Management Board.

He once again reiterated his plea to the Union Government to grant national project status on the Eastern Rajasthan Canal project (ERCP) which would benefit large number of people in the arid state, providing drinking water and irrigation facilities.

ERCP, it is believed, will help improve water supply in 26 major and medium irrigation projects and is expected to bring an additional 200,000 hectares under irrigation. Estimated to cost Rs 37,247 crores, it will be funded by the Centre and the State in the ratio of 60:40. If declared a national project, the Union Government would pay as much as 90% of the cost.

Gehlot has argued that ECRP deserves to be declared a national project because once completed, it would also cater to the needs of the industrial units to be set up under the ambitious Japanese-aided Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. A large part of the DMIC falls within Rajasthan.

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