Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura

Iqbal Singh Lalpura is new minority panel chief

It is said minority ministry was not consulted in his appointment; despite court order  five member’s post still vacant

By Abdul Bari Masoud

New Delhi:  Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura on Friday took charge as the 14th Chairman of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) in the presence of Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at the Commission office here. It is said the minority ministry was not consulted before his appointment. Even he himself said the Prime Minister has given him an opportunity to serve the people.

Notwithstanding the new chairman’s appointment, the minorities’ panel is still functioning without any of its five members which fell vacant since last year.

Lalpur’s appointment is seen as a bid by the BJP-led Union government to woo the Sikh community who are on the ‘warpath’ against the government since the 3-pro corporate Agri laws were passed in September last year. Before this appointment, Lalpura was ruling BJP’s national spokesperson who joined the saffron party  in 2012.

Lalpura’s  appointment came after the  Delhi High Court had questioned the  government’s delay in appointing the new chairman while the incumbent  chairman Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi’s tenure ended way back in May last year.

Earlier this year, the Delhi High Court had asked the Modi government to explain why six of the seven posts at the NCM have been lying vacant since October. On August 13 this year, the Delhi High Court extended the deadline given to the Centre to nominate persons to all the vacant positions in the NCM by September 30. The court’s decision came after the Centre made a plea to extend the deadline by a period of three months.

In spite of  the new chairman’s nomination,  the minority panel’s five members are still not nominated by the government. The seven-member Commission is currently functioning with just two members that are chairman and vice chairman.

Sources also said the Minority Ministry was not consulted before the appointment of Lalpura as new chairman of the minority panel who is the second member from the Sikh community to hold this office. Tirlochan Singh was the other member who has been the chairman of the panel.   This is the third occasion, when other than Muslim, a member from other five recognised religious minorities was nominated as chairman of the panel.when the Minority Panel first constituted by the then Janata Party government in 1978, Minoo Masani, a Parsi, was appointed as its first chairman who was a stalwart of socialist movement. Although, NCM Act does not bar in selecting a chairman from other than Muslim minorities but being the largest minority group among the six recognised minority groups, generally, a chairman is nominated from the Muslim community.

According to sources, “Even though NCM is an autonomous statutory body it comes under the minority ministry and the minister has the prerogative to appoint the chairman with consultation with the government”.

The presence of the minister when the new chairman took charge is termed as a clear departure from the past.  No minister in the past came to the commission office whenever a new panel chief had taken charge. This itself is a clear proof that the minister was not consulted before the appointment of the new chief, the sources added.

Even Lalpura stated that the Prime Minister has given him an opportunity to serve the people and he would try his best to serve the society.

Speaking on the occasion Naqvi extended his best wishes to Lalpura in his new responsibility and said that his vast experience in administration, social and literary fields will be helpful in strengthening the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, and Sabka Prayas”.

Former IPS officer Iqbal Singh Lalpura is the retired DIG Punjab Police who was among the three-member team of officers chosen to arrest Sikh separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in April 1981. He hails from Rupnagar district in Punjab and has served as SSP of Amritsar Rural, Kapurthala and Tarn Taran districts.

He has authored several books on Sikh philosophy, Punjabi culture, and interpretation of Guru Granth Sahib and attached to several social organizations.

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