Beheading’ of constitutional institutions set up for minorities

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Does keeping such institutions headless serve the idea of ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’?

Ghazanfar Abbas, IndiaTomorrow.net,
New Delhi, May 23: The BJP-led central government completed its three years last week and on the occasion celebrated its ‘achievements’ under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship slogan ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’. Along with other ministers, Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi while highlighting works of his ministry said the Modi government in last 3 years “took educational empowerment of Minorities as a mission which has given results on ground level.” He may have proofs of “results on ground level”, but what is known to all is that three key constitutional bodies established to safeguard the constitutional, legal and educational rights of religious minorities and scheduled castes have been made almost defunct as they remain headless for past several months and years.

The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) are without Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and members for a long time and thus have virtually become defunct.

National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (set up in 2004)

The NCMEI has been without chairperson and members after the retirement of Justice M S A Siddiqui in December 2014. At NCMEI, total eight members are sanctioned but since Dec 2014, there is neither chairperson nor members.

The Commission was established for educational empowerment of religious minorities through an ordinance in November 2004, soon after the Congress-led UPA government was formed at the Centre. In January 2005, the ordinance was replaced by an Act of Parliament.

Since its inception, Justice Siddiqui was its chairperson and in 10 years, the panel awarded minority status to 10,812 education institutions set up by minorities. However, the BJP-led NDA government has not appointed its chairperson and members since Dec 2014, making it virtually defunct. Justice Siddiqui’s last big achievement as NCMEI chief was grant of minority status to Jamia Millia Islamia.

Recently, a recruitment notice for secretary and clerical level staff was uploaded on NCMEI website, giving an impression that is functioning.

National Commission for Minorities (set up in 1992)

All positions at the panel, from Chairperson to Vice Chairperson to Members, are vacant for several months. Dadi E. Mistry was the last member in the Commission who retired on 9th March this year.

Earlier, members Farida Abdulla Khan retired in October 2016 while Praveen Davar retired in January this year. Another member, Mabel Rebello, from the Christian community, completed her term in February 2016.

Its Chairman Naseem Ahmed also completed his term on 3rd March. He also twice wrote to the Minority Affairs Ministry to fill the vacant posts but the ministry has not yet notified to recruit the vacant positions.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the central government on 17th May over a petition seeking re-constitution of the NCM.

The NCM was established as safeguard of constitutional and educational rights of the minorities under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. It has a sanctioned strength of seven members, including the chairperson, with each member having a fixed tenure of three years.

National Commission for Scheduled Castes (set up in 1978)

The situation of NCSC is similar to the one being faced by the other two commissions mentioned above.

All the positions at the panel are vacant since November, 2016. It has a sanctioned strength of five members, including the Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three members each having a fixed tenure of three years.

After serving as chairman for two consecutive terms, Dr. PL Punia retired on 21st October, 2016. Since then no chairperson has been appointed yet. The last member as well as Vice-Chairperson of the commission Raj Kumar Verka also retired on 4th November, 2016.

NCSC was set up in 1978 as safeguard to promote the social, educational, economic and service interest of Scheduled Castes of the society.

Will fill vacant posts soon: Govt.

In March, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said that all vacant seats in NCM will be filled soon.

“The process is on. We have received a few names for the members and chairperson which I cannot disclose right now, but it may be done soon,” Naqvi had told IANS.

One can ask him and his government: Why wasn’t the process for appointments at these institutions taken in advance? Why are these institutions headless for months and years? Does keeping these constitutional institutions headless for so long serve the idea of ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’?

Also Read:
Minorities commission has virtually no members, no new appointments in sight
Court notice to central govt. over defunct minority commission

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