Swaminathan, Mander in new National Advisory Council

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) Eminent farm scientist M.S. Swaminathan and social activist Harsh Mander are among the 14 people Tuesday named in the new National Advisory Council (NAC), which is expected to focus on the proposed Food Security Bill.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed the NAC members in consultation with its chair Sonia Gandhi. The appointees include academics, economists and civil society activists.

While four members from the previous NAC — Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze, N.C. Saxena and A.K. Shiva Kumar — have been renominated, the rest are new faces.

These include Swaminathan, economist Narendra Jadhav, civil rights activists Mirai Chatterjee and Farah Naqvi, North-Eastern Hill University vice-chancellor Pramod Tandon, and bureaucrat-turned-social activist Harsh Mander.

Ram Dayal Munda, MP, entrepreneur Anu Aga of Thermax Ltd, Madhav Gadgil of the Agharkar Research Institute (Pune) and Magsaysay award winner Deep Joshi have also been nominated to the new NAC that is expected to push for inclusive growth and social justice.

In its last incarnation during the first tenure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the NAC became identified with signature social sector reforms such as introduction of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act.

Mander told IANS that the new NAC would look at the proposed Food Security Bill ‘in a much more comprehensive way than has been done so far’.

The bill, which seeks to provide subsidised food to the poor, is being reviewed by a group of ministers after Sonia Gandhi shot down an earlier draft.

The Congress had promised in its 2009 election manifesto that every family living below the poverty line will be entitled to 25 kg rice or wheat per month at Rs.3 per kg.

Mander said the NAC would also study closely the Communal Violence Bill, the rights of the urban homeless and vulnerable children, and issues related to the Right to Education.

Mander, who was formally sounded about his appointment Saturday, said NAC members were committed to justice for the tribal people ‘not just in the context of Maoist violence but in redressing historical injustice’.

Asked how he looked at the role of the NAC, which was revived in March this year, he said it would carry forward the work done so far with fresh priorities.

He praised the composition of the new NAC as ‘very good’. ‘The members complement each other. They share basic values in the social and political beliefs.’

The NAC was first formed in 2004 after the Congress took power. Sonia Gandhi resigned as its chairperson in 2006 following a row over holding an office-of-profit while being an MP.

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