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Besides Governors, chiefs of boards, panels too under pressure to quit

The vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), M Shashidhar Reddy, and five of its members have already resigned.

Governors, it seems, are not the only actors in the ongoing drama over high-profile resignations. Even before the Raj Bhavans controversy began, the cabinet secretariat had written to all ministries, asking for details of political appointees in the various commissions and boards, and their remaining tenures.

And some ministries have begun to send out signals to chairpersons of commissions attached to them that they might want to consider putting in their papers.

The vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), M Shashidhar Reddy, and five of its members have already resigned; three more are likely to follow in the coming days. Former D-G, CISF K M Singh, former civil aviation secretary K N Shrivastava, Maj Gen (retd) J K Bansal, former BARC director B Bhattacharjee, and former CBI special director K Salim Ali have quit their NDMA posts along with Reddy.

“I sent my resignation on June 16 itself, and it was on my mind after the election results were out. Though it is a fixed tenure of five years, and myterm ends in December 2015, I decided to quit. Though nobody called me and asked me to quit, the other members who tendered their resignation today got a call from the home secretary,” Reddy said.

The NDMA is headed by the Prime Minister. The vice-chairman enjoys the rank of cabinet minister, and its eight other members have the rank of union minister of state. The three members who have not resigned so far are former CRPF D-G J K Sinha, medical expert Muzaffar Ahmed, and former Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development Harsh K Gupta.

Chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board Prema Cariappa too has resigned. But not everyone is willing to go quietly.  Kushal Singh, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, has taken the government to court, alleging that she is being forced to resign. Citing a 2010 judicial order that says that incumbents in tenure posts do not need to resign with the change of government, Singh has said that resigning in response to “feelers” from the government would mean going against the mandate of the commission she heads.

“The commission’s job is to monitor the functioning of the government. If the chairperson has to resign at the behest of the government that very purpose is defeated,” sources close to Singh said. The court has sent a notice to the ministry; the next hearing is on July 25.

Dr Rajeshwar Oraon, chairman of the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes, said: “These are constitutional bodies and our being in office is not at the pleasure of the government. Nobody can ask us to resign.” Oraon’s tenure ends in October 2016.

The WCD Ministry is learnt to have decided not to press for the resignation of NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma — a Congress politician from Rajasthan — whose tenure ends in August, and instead start the process of selecting a new chairperson.

“They did send some feelers some time back but I told them they should give it to me in writing. This is a statutory body, not a plaything,” Sharma, who is currently in Spain, said.

Among others who are learnt to have received such “feelers” is the chairperson of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), Rajender Singla, who has told the ministry that he was willing to resign if the government desired.

P L Punia, chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, said nobody had asked him or members of the commission to step down.
“We had a good meeting with the minister and there was no such indication,” he said. Punia was a Congress MP in the last Lok Sabha.

NCM chairman Naseem Ahmed too said that there has been no move from the government seeking resignations.

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