Goofing up in Guwahati
Mamata Sharma, chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW), had to associate herself with the Guwahati gang-molestation affair in a manner distasteful to her. She felt compelled to apologise before the media after Alka Lamba committed a faux pas by naming the victim at a press conference. Lamba, despite not being part of the NCW, virtually led its fact finding team to Guwahati. The only other person it comprised was Wansuk Syiem, a bona fide member of NCW. But while Syiem was virtually relegated to the background, Lamba hogged the limelight. It was she who called the shots at the ill-fated press conference. Lamba was dressed perfectly for a photo-shoot only if the occasion were a happier one.
What explains the goof-up in Guwahati? It is the ascendancy of politics over governance. Lamba is not a bona fide member of the NCW. Though Section 8 (2) of the National Commission for Woman Act, 2009 has a provision for co-opting members to attend its meetings, it is doubtful whether the same can apply to Lamba. She has no expertise in the field, so that NCW would think her fit to be co-opted.
The Commission is mandated to have the powers of a civil court like summoning any person and examining him on oath; receiving evidence on affidavits; examining witnesses etc. But Lamba has not joined the NCW under oath to exercise these powers. She is not properly trained to deal with such women related cases. It was surprising that she was not only included in the team but was allowed to dominate it.
Lamba’s inclusion betrayed political favoritism. It is well known that Lamba, former DUSU president from National Students Union of India, is a wannabe star in a particular political party. That was the actual reason behind the latitude she enjoyed in Guwahati.
But there was hardly anything that the NCW chairperson could do about it. Sharma herself is a member of the same party. She is a political heavyweight. Yet she could hardly have gone against the wishes of her political masters if they wanted Lamba to have a joyride at public expense. Though the same party is in power in Assam, the Congress wanted to seize the occasion before the Opposition could capitalize upon it. This, the party thought, could be achieved by Lamba’s glamour quotient.
It is only when things went wrong and alarm bells started ringing that Sharma had to act tough. Glamour had to be foregone in favour of administrative imperatives. She not only made it clear that Lamba was not leading the team, and that she had been removed. The moral of the story is that governance cannot be outsourced. The party's sacrificial Lamba must return to Delhi alone.