A wek after designating National Commission for Women member Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar as the acting chairperson of the commission, the Women and Child Development Ministry removed her from the post. The ministry issued a fresh notification making WCD secretary Vinay Sheel Oberoi the acting chairperson.
Though WCD officials remained tight-lipped about the reasons for the revised notification, sources said that the Prime Minister’s Office was not happy with the elevation of Prabhavalkar to the chair vacated by Mamta Sharma last month when her tenure ended.
Prabhavalkar had been vocal against the Gujarat government and then chief minister Narendra Modi in the wake of the snooping row. In absence of Sharma, who was fighting Assembly elections in Rajasthan last November, Prabhavalkar had led the NCW charge against Modi as the acting chairperson. Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on snooping, the NCW had issued a showcause notice against the Gujarat government.
By convention, being the senior-most member, Prabhavalkar should hold charge in the absence of the chairperson.
The two back to back notifications also show that while WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi is pushing for greater powers to the NCW by elevating it to the status of a civil court with jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir, political interference may be here to stay.
On August 4, the ministry notified that Prabhavalkar would hold charge with effect from August 1 till a new chairperson is selected in accordance with the NCW Act or till further orders. Further orders came Monday when Prabhavalkar was informed that the earlier order was being annulled.
Prabhavalkar refused to comment on the matter but confirmed that the order has been withdrawn. Oberoi did not respond to calls, emails and text messages.
Ever since the Narendra Modi government assumed office in May this year, the WCD ministry has had a running feud with the chiefs of autonomous commissions under it. It started with the ministry sending out feelers to National Commission for Women, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Central Adoption Resource Authority and the Central Social Welfare Board that the respective chiefs of these organisations should resign.
“The appointment of Prabhavalkar as the acting chairperson of the commission has caused a lot of embarrassment to the ministry. The PMO had made it clear that the decision would need to be changed as soon as possible. That is why the secretary was designated as the acting chairperson,” a source said.