Delhi Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal is known for making controversial statements. From calling Prime Minister Modi as “coward and psychopath” to comparing himself with Dengue mosquito, he has come a long way while making public statements which keeps buzzing the prime time debates for days.
The latest in the line of such statements is when he asked if states should prepare their own defense in case of territorial aggression from other countries.
“If Pakistan declares war on India tomorrow, states cannot be asked to look out for themselves — that UP should buy its own tanks and Delhi procure its own weapons,” Kejriwal said in a digital press briefing, pointing out vaccines for people in the 18-44 age group and the stock of for the elderly was now exhausted.
However, this time he went too far. Not only this statement is constitutionally wrong, it has the potential of misguiding the people in mass numbers.
Our constitution has a wonderful division of responsibilities and subjects between central and state governments. In the 7th schedule of constitution, there are 3 lists viz. Union List, State List & Concurrent List. The state list has 61 subjects where the power has been vested to State Governments. the Union List has 91 items which solely fall in the domain of Central Government. The Concurrent List has 52 items which fall in the domain of both central and state governments.
It turns out that the Health is in State List, while Defense is under Union List. That means the state governments are responsible for the health while the Central Government is responsible for the Defense of the country. However, the central government in India usually plays a residual role in subjects of state list. That’s why we have some hospitals like AIIMS and institutions of ICMR, managed by Central Government. However, primarily it’s the duty of state government to ensure healthcare facilities are provided to the people. The Central Government is only supposed to fill the missing gap.
So Mr. Kejriwal, the answer to your question can be found in the 7th schedule of our constitution. If Pakistan declares the war on India, the states are not supposed to look out for their own defense. This has been clearly mentioned in the Union list.
However, in case of health emergencies like pandemic, the state governments are supposed to take the lead. That’s what most states are doing. Blaming central government for everything under the sun may fetch you some praises among uninformed supporters, but you would be doing a great injustice to the people by feeding them with incorrect and confusing statements.
Mr. Kejriwal, you started your career as an IIT graduate and later went to become an IRS officer. This is still the dream of a majority of Indian students. Later you ventured into the politics and went on to become the Chief Minister of Delhi. The youth of this country look up to you as a role model. By making such constitutionally wrong statements, you are doing a grave injustice to them. For a short term, they may be led to believe that central government is responsible for health and those youth may cheer for you, but eventually when they would come to know that it was you who was supposed to look after health not the central government, they would feel grossly cheated and they would hate you for sure. You should not sacrifice long term goodwill for short term gain.
If the most poor state Bihar can set an example by vaccinating highest in the 18-44 age group, Delhi could have done much better. All it needed was a decisive will and timely action. Unfortunately, your ministers spent more time blaming others than doing their job. Starting from Oxygen to Remdesivir to Vaccines, you have blamed others for all of your failure. Even Delhi High Court reprimanded your Government for this.
The pandemic, especially the 2nd wave, was unexpected and unprecedented. Most of the people are in shock, pain and anger. While Government has definitely its limit, they definitely failed on many fronts. In fact, not a single country in the world has managed to handle the pandemic. Common People also have their own share of blame for the spread of pandemic. But making a chain of acquisition on others in a desperate attempt to hide your own failures would earn you more wrath of informed citizens than the praises of uniformed ones.