Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: The government has reconstituted the National Integration Council (NIC) which will be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The NIC has 147 members, including Union Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Chief Ministers of all States and Union Territories with Legislatures.

It also includes leaders of national and regional political parties, chairpersons of national commissions, eminent journalists, public figures, and representatives of business and women's organisations.

Set up in the early 60s by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the NIC held its first meeting in 1962. The council reviews matters relating to national integration and makes recommendations over such issues.

The NIC aims at finding ways and means to combat the menace of communalism, casteism and regionalism. It has held 14 meetings so far, with the last one in October 2008 during the first innings of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

The reconstituted NIC will have 14 Union Ministers — Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Sharad Pawar (Agriculture), A.K. Antony (Defence), P. Chidambaram (Home), Mamata Banerjee (Railways), M. Veerappa Moily (Law & Justice), Kapil Sibal (Human Resource Development), Ambika Soni (Information & Broadcasting), Dayanidhi Maran (Textiles), Farooq Abdullah (New & Renewable Energy), Mukul Wasnik (Social Justice & Empowerment), Kantilal Bhuria (Tribal Affairs), Salman Khurshid (Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs) and Krishna Tirath (Women & Child Development).

Leaders of national political parties, Sonia Gandhi (Congress), Nitin Gadkari (Bharatiya Janata Party), Prakash Karat (Communist Party of India-Marxist), A.B. Bardhan (CPI), Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party) and Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party) have been included in the Council.

Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, have also been named NIC members.

Leaders of regional political parties M. Karunanidhi (DMK), Farooq Abdullah (NC), Ajit Singh (RLD), Sukbir Singh Badal (SAD), N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), E. Ahamed (IUML), Mulayam Singh (SP), Lalu Prasad (RJD), H.D. Deve Gowda (JD-S), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Navin Patnaik (BJD), Chandra Mohan Patowary (AGP), Mehbooba Mufti (PDP), Shibu Soren (JMM) have been made members of the Council.

Eminent journalists include N. Ravi, Editor of The Hindu, Shashi Shekhar, Editor-in-Chief of Hindustan, Mammen Mathew, Editor of Malayala Manorama, Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson of Hindustan Times, V. Raja, Chief Editor of the Sun TV network, Barkha Dutt, Group Editor of NDTV, Zahid Ali Khan, Editor of The Siasat Daily, and P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu.

Women's representatives include Ela R. Bhatt, V. Mohini Giri, Noor Bano, Amrit Srinivasan, Annie Raja, Gomathi Nair and Neerja Chowdhury.

From the business world, industrialists Venu Srinivasan, Azim Premji, Yogi Deveshwar and A.M. Naik have been included, along with Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India.

Among the eminent public figures are Somnath Chatterjee, Sitaram Yechury, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, Shabana Azmi, Asaduddin Owaisi, Amar Singh and Rajnath Singh, according to an official release here on Monday.