NAC I: The knocks, and the nicks

With Sonia Gandhi back at its head, the National Advisory Council (NAC) is set to be reconstituted. By all accounts, it will aim to give the aam aadmi touch to UPA II. In its first avtar, the NAC was known to track the NREGS, the RTI, the Forest Rights Act and the farm loan waiver. It also courted controversy and was seen as a parallel power centre. The term of the first NAC expired on March 31, 2008. But it had run out of steam some time before that since March 23, 2006, when Sonia resigned as its chairperson. The first NAC claimed to have drawn in "distinguished professionals from diverse fields of development activity". This team prepared concept papers on subjects ranging from the NRHM, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the NREGS to panchayati raj and tribal welfare and development, and tracked 'action taken' notes of ministries and departments.

Of the members appointed to NAC I, Aruna Roy, known for her RTI campaign in Rajasthan, quit in June 2006, claiming that she was unhappy with its functioning. Earlier, Jean Dreze, noted development economist, had resigned after the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill was introduced, allegedly because he thought that it diluted the provisions in the first draft.

When it was disbanded in 2008, the NAC members were:

Dr D Swaminadhan: Educationist and engineer-scientist, a former Planning Commission member. Was a member of the Expert Panel of the National Commission for the Review of the Working of the Indian Constitution.

Prof CH Hanumantha Rao: Agricultural economist, former member of the Planning Commission, member of the Economic Advisory Council to PM, from 1983-85.

Sehba Hussain: Member secretary and executive director of BETI (Better Education Through Innovation). Also co-founder and honorary treasurer of SEWA. Member of the executive committee of the National Mission for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Jairam Ramesh: The only 'political' member of NAC I. Was advisor to Congress state governments. Worked in the PM's office, Finance Ministry, Planning Commission, Ministry of Industry and other Central government departments.

Dr V Krishnamurthy: Served as chairman of BHEL, SAIL and Maruti, was also secretary, Industries, to the government of India.

N C Saxena: Food security expert, retired from government service in 2002 and has advised international donors on poverty alleviation, food security, natural resource management, community forestry etc. On behalf of the Supreme Court, has monitored food-based programmes.

Dr Madhav Chavan: A chemist by training, one of the founders of Pratham, an organisation that has been working for the universalisation of elementary education in India since 1994.

Dr A K Shiva Kumar: Development economist, founding member of the International Development Evaluation Association and adviser to Unicef, India. His research has focused on poverty, human development.

Prof Mrinal Miri: Educationist, has served as vice-chancellor of Northeast University and as director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Has taught and researched philosophy of culture and moral philosophy, and issues related to understanding tribal cultures.

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