The relevance of the National Advisory Council (NAC) seems to be fading,with most recommendations it has made still under consideration by ministries.
Even though ministries rarely reject its suggestions outright,NACs influence in shaping policy seems to have declined. In contrast to the council earlier playing a pivotal role in landmark legislations like the Right to Information Act,the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Forest Rights Act,its recent run does not seem to have been as
Two years after NAC submitted its draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Repatriation) Bill,the proposed legislation continues to hang fire.
The councils recommendations in June last year for improving sex ratio at birth went unheeded for more than a year till an action plan was proposed by the government in August but nothing has been implemented. NAC recommendations on Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA) to the Ministry of Panchayati Raj in December continue to be under process.
The council submitted recommendations on the Strengthening of Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989 in March. While amendments to the Act were placed before Cabinet,a decision was deferred. The NAC suggestion in May on a mandatory pre-legislative process for all central government draft legislation to ensure wider and more transparent consultation have not been accepted so far.
According to Health and Family Welfare officials,NAC recommendations on Universal Health Coverage submitted in July came too late when it became clear the government did not have enough funds to implement it. Similarly,NAC recommendations on Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups are still under deliberation by the Tribal Affairs ministry.
Meanwhile,demands for passing the Communal Violence Bill have been revived after the Muzaffarnagar clashes. The Home Ministry,several states and political parties are opposed to the NAC draft. Former member and co-convener of the Working Group on the Bill,Harsh Mander,said it was crucial for the government to have pushed the Bill.
The government was unable to take the bold political stand such a legislation requires, Mander says.
NAC members are disappointed over the recent laws on Food Security and Land Acquisition,Rehabilitation and Resettlement.
The Land Acquisition Act is anti-farmer and anti-industry but pro-bureaucracy and pro-civil society…It has some very negative provisions…The NAC draft was much better and addressed many of these issues, says NAC member N C Saxena.
The Food Bill is also a diluted version of what NAC had recommended, Saxena says. While NAC draft envisaged coverage of 75 per cent of the population,it covers 67 per cent. Moreover,the NAC included social groups like destitute,homeless and migrants,which have been dropped.
Members say the government did push these two,and other welfare legislation that bear NAC stamp like the one on Manual Scavenging in the Monsoon session.
NAC has not yet taken up the issue of amendment to the RTI Act,mooted by the government. This,despite strong support from the civil society,including former NAC member Aruna Roy.