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Sonia to again head National Advisory Council

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was Monday again named chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC), four years after she quit on being accused of holding an office of profit.

"She will hold the rank and status of union cabinet minister with immediate effect. The salary, allowances and other terms and conditions of the chairperson and members shall be such as the government may specify from time to time," an official statement said.

Her term will begin from the date she assumes charge, it said.

"It will be co-terminus with the term of the NAC or until further orders whichever is earlier. The chairperson shall be entitled to the same salary, pay, allowances and other facilities to which a member of the union council of ministers is entitled."

According to the statement, the term of NAC members will be for one year but this could be extended. They will draw salary and allowances determined by the central government.

Gandhi had resigned from the NAC in March 2006 after the opposition alleged that she had violated the office of profit principle requiring MPs not to hold offices that carry wages, salaries or allowances during their tenures. She had also resigned her Lok Sabha seat of Rae Bareli but won it back in a re-election.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government subsequently came up with a bill seeking to exempt 56 posts, including the NAC chairperson, from being considered as office of profit. The bill was approved in May 2006 by parliament amid opposition by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led opposition.

The NAC was first formed during the earlier tenure of UPA government and had played a role in the enactment of Right to Information Act, Forest Rights Act and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

The reconstituted NAC is expected to take up the food security bill over which there are differences between social activists and the government. The activists, some of whom were part of the previous NAC, have differed with the government on draft food security bill cleared by the cabinet, saying its provisions were "minimalist".

The reconstituted NAC is also expected to keep a watch on the existing flagship welfare schemes such as the rural employment guarantee programme and scrutinise other proposed legislations dealing with social sector. (IANS)

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