The National Commission for Women (NCW) has been running headless for over a month after the tenure of Mamta Sharma as its chairperson came to an end on July 31.
More than a month after its senior-most member Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar was stripped of the charge to lead the commission within a week of being given the responsibility, the Women and Child Development Ministry is waiting for the Prime Minister’s Office to take a call on appointing a new NCW chairperson.
WCD Secretary V S Oberoi — who is not a member of the commission — is currently looking after the commission after an order was issued on August 11 in this regard. “The decision about who will be the next chairperson of the NCW will be taken by the PMO. We have forwarded all applications that we had received for the post — around eight to nine of them — to the PMO. We are waiting for the PMO to take a call on the matter. We have no role to play,” said a senior official in the ministry.
The ministry had run afoul of the PMO when it designated Prabhavalkar as the acting chairperson immediately after Sharma’s tenure ended. Prabhavalkar’s stance against the Gujarat government and then chief minister Narendra Modi in the wake of snooping allegations, had not gone down well with the PMO and the ministry was conveyed displeasure over the decision. The notification was immediately withdrawn and Oberoi was given additional charge as chairperson of the Commission.
NCW members admitted that the visibility of the commission has suffered in the absence of a full-time chairperson, but said the body is carrying out all its work. “We recently did a programme for empowerment of women, and also one on minorities. Our northeast cell is very active. Only in absence of a face all that work is not being publicised, neither is the NCW as the vocal body it once was,” said a member speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s efforts to give more teeth to both the NCW and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights are also hanging fire. According to sources, Maneka Gandhi’s vision to give these commissions status of civil courts with jurisdiction also over Jammu and Kashmir is not shared by many within the government.
One of the concerns in sections of the government is that should the legal status of NCW and NCPCR be changed, other bodies like the SC/ST, OBC and the minority commissions too would be expected to be given the same status.