NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to make 710 files of the National Advisory Council (NAC) public. They provide a glimpse of the ecosystem that exercised absolute power with no accountability over the government between 2004 and 2014 and reveal the influence the NAC, formed under the chairmanship of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, exercised on policy-making in coal, power, disinvestment, real estate, governance, social and industrial sectors.
Express has exclusively accessed files, revealing that the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government followed up on the “suggestions”. The NAC summoned bureaucrats to its office at 2 Motilal Nehru Place, wrote to ministers and sought compliance reports, though its charter defines its function as a body to provide inputs for policy formulation and provide support to the government in legislative business. The content of the files shows that the UPA government had no choice but to implement the NAC’s recommendations.
Here is an excerpt from the minutes of an NAC meeting held on October 29, 2005: “It was agreed that while implementation of the various recommendations of the commission would be the direct responsibility of the government agencies and other institutions, it would still be imperative to monitor and evaluate this process, closely, independently and credibly.”
Did Sonia Gandhi lack trust in Manmohan’s capabilities? File N.11012/2/2014-NAC (dated February 25) shows that the NAC was taking up various agendas and sending the government recommendations.
“The recommendations on ‘Development of sports in the NE’ have already been communicated to the government by the chairperson vide letters dated 21st February 2014. The recommendations on ‘Development of cooperatives in India’ are also being sent to the government with the approval of chairperson,” a note in the file said.
File (N.9) relating to the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises contains a letter from NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the then PM Manmohan Singh, dated September 16, 2004. She had been informed about the government’s plan to reconstitute the Disinvestment Commission and set up a new board in its place.
Sonia wrote, “I would like to suggest that the first item in the terms of reference of the new board should be such as to enable it to look into ways and means for strengthening public sector enterprises in general and making them more autonomous and professional. The functioning of the board should not be limited only to restructuring or advising on the closure or sale of public sector enterprises that are referred to it by the government. I hope this matter will be considered on priority and a clear decision taken before the constitution of the board for reconstruction of public sector enterprises.”
Files show the PM carried out her recommendations. On Feb 27, 2006, Sonia asked Manmohan to institute an apex mechanism for the manufacturing sector. “I thought that the issues outlined above needed to be taken up without delay for further consideration in the government,” read Sonia’s letter (1728/CP/NAC/06). A note in a file dated Oct 27, 2006 and addressed to Sonia revealed that “A special mechanism in the form of a high-level committee on manufacturing for implementation has been created as suggested in your letter to the PM.”