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Reward awaits ex-secretary

RK Singh

New Delhi, July 1: BJP MP and former Union home secretary R.K Singh is tipped to be the next vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the de-facto boss of the body chaired by the Prime Minister.

To appoint Singh to the post — an office of profit of the rank of cabinet minister and usually held by political appointees — the Narendra Modi government may have to amend the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Act, 2006.

Sonia Gandhi had quit as MP and as chairperson of several bodies, including the National Advisory Council (NAC), in 2006 after an office of profit controversy. Sonia fought a byelection and won again. The UPA government amended the office of profit law to include the NAC post in the list of exemptions.

The law bars a member of Parliament from holding any office under the government of India or state government that carries salaries or perks. The rider is that he or she may not be disqualified if the office is “declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder”.In the NDMA, Shashidhar Reddy, a Congress MLA from Andhra Pradesh, was vice-chairman till he quit earlier this month. Reddy was appointed by the UPA regime first as a member and then as vice-chairman. The Congress government in Andhra twice had an amendment passed in the Assembly to the law meant for salaries and pensions of members to exempt the two positions.

Today, a government source said similar amendments would be needed to appoint Singh to the NDMA. The former IAS officer had joined the BJP soon after retirement last year, was elected from Bihar’s Ara and was seen as a potential candidate for a ministerial berth in the Modi government.

Singh was not available for comment.

Prime Minister Modi, the NDMA’s ex-officio chairman, is said to be keen on restructuring the body responsible for framing policies and guidelines for disaster management in the country.

Suspense hangs over the 10-member NDMA now. Seven of its eight members, besides Reddy, quit after the Modi government took charge. While the resignations haven’t been accepted yet, the members have no work. Two circulars were issued saying files will not be sent to them by “lower officers” and that only joint secretaries will send files, if necessary.