The idea of having Zonal Councils was given by Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956. He had said, 'to develop the habit of cooperative working among the four or five groups of states and ward off the possible bitterness among the linguistically created states, formed on the recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission, the Zonal Councils be established.' He hoped, that the zonal councils would help create healthy inter-state and Centre-State environment with a view to solving inter-state problems and fostering a balanced socio-economic development of the respective zones. 148'Indian Polity and Governance The five Zonal Councils were, thus, set up vide Part III of the State Re organisation Act, 1956, these were:
(i) 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.
(ii) The Central 'Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
(iii) The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal. (iv) The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli; and
(v) The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya (vii) Nagaland and (viii) Sikkim are part of North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1971. 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 scrutinize items/issues sponsored for consideration of Zonal Councils, resolve as many issues as possible at their level, and recommend important issues for consideration at the meetings of Zonal Councils. Senior Officers of the Planning Commission and other Central Ministries are also associated with the meetings of the Standing Committees depending upon necessity. Organisationally, each Zonal Council has a Chairman, usually, the Home Minister, The Vice-Chairmen are the Chief Ministers of States of each zone.
The members in each Zonal Council are the Chief Ministers of the zone and two other ministers as nominated by the Governor of the States of each Zone together with two members from Union Territories included in the zone. There are advisors in each Zonal Council. They are: one officer nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the zonal council, Chief Secretaries and another officer as Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone. The Union Ministers may also be invited to participate in the meetings of the zonal councils. The Zonal Councils provide a forum where irritants between Centre and States and also amongst States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and help bring about national integration, arrest the divisive tendencies, augment cooperation and promote mutual interests relating to socio-economic development.