Questions raised on NCW's role, political patronage
New Delhi: On the silver jubilee of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Union minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday faced some tough questions on the political patronage extended to the panel.
For over 12 years, NCW chairpersons, like Girija Vyas, Mamata Sharma and Lalitha Kumaramangalam, were those with direct links with the ruling party at the Centre.
Critical of the political links of NCW chairpersons over the years, Mohini V Giri, a former chief of panel, told Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, "Let me be frank today, I would not like to have any political patronage on any NCW chairperson."
Giri, a Padma Bhushan awardee, was the second chairperson of the NCW between 1995 and 1998. "Let us follow the NHRC system and see that the chairperson who comes will be a mother or sister to everyone. It should be a platform that can be approached by people desperate for help," she said. The concerns are being raised at a time the NCW is without a chairperson after Lalitha Kumaramangalam's three- year term expired in September last year.
Kumaramangalam was the member of the BJP national executive when she was appointed to the post in 2014.
Before her, Mamata Sharma was at the helm between 2011 and 2014. According to the NCW website, she has been the general secretary of the Rajasthan Congress and had also contested the state elections from Bundi seat in 2002.
Sharma's predecessor, Girija Vyas, who served two terms as the chairperson between 2005 and 2011, was a Congress leader and a three-time Lok Sabha MP from Udaipur. She had also briefly served as the deputy minister (Information and Broadcasting) in the P V Narasimha Rao government.
At an event held to mark the 25th anniversary of the NCW, Giri also pressed for giving more powers to the commission.
"You (Maneka Gandhi) have yourself said that it needs to be strengthened, so my first suggestion is that let us call a meeting of people and see how we can strengthen this commission so that it performs the role it was made for," she told Gandhi, who remained silent.
Giri claimed that although the NCW is an autonomous body, it is functioning as if it is under the ministry of women and child development.
"What is then the need for NCW? Are we safeguarding women's interests? Every day there is a Nirbhaya, everyday there is rape, children are not safe in this country, there is not one window for people to complain," the former NCW chairperson lamented.
Soon after being appointed as the Union minister, Maneka Gandhi had mooted more teeth to the NCW by giving it the status of a civil court with rights like that of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Her ministry had also proposed issuing arrest warrants if summons from NCW were ignored. However, these proposals are yet to see the light of the day. Mohini Giri also questioned why the NCW was carrying out new surveys on the condition of women in jails and mental hospitals without referring to the recommendations made by previous commissions "which are gathering dust".