Govt slammed for saffron agenda in education


EW DELHI: The government on Thursday came under severe assault from the opposition on the issue of "saffronisation" of education through distortion in school textbooks and politicising institutions.

Launching a trenchant broadside in the Lok Sabha, leader of opposition Sonia Gandhi warned the government that tinkering with history would have disastrous consequences for the pluralistic character of India. She said that instead of being an instrument to eliminate obscurantism and religious fanaticism, education was being used to promote sectarian values.

"We must prevent the perversion of policy to suit goals which may be the goals of a particular persuasion, but are not, cannot be, and will never become, the goals of the nation as a whole," she said in her first speech in the current monsoon session.

The Congress leader cautioned the government that any change in the national policy on education could be effected only with the consent of Parliament. Participating in the discussion initiated by CPM group leader Somnath Chatterjee, she said, "The single most disturbing step is the attempt to launch a national curriculum for school education based on the perceptions and prejudices of a coterie of ideologues instead of the nation as a whole."

She accused the HRD ministry of adopting a "secretive and non-consensual approach" to change the curricula. Gandhi alleged that NCERT as an institution was being marginalised and that the views of a "favoured few" were being accepted.

Urging the government to pursue the goal of universal primary education, she said with a stern note, "We hope this debate will put the hon'ble minister of human resource development on notice that he cannot substitute a `national agenda' with the `hidden agenda"

Defending the government V. K. Malhotra (BJP) said that it was ironic that the CPM whose government in West Bengal had been accused of distorting history in school text books, was now charging the Union government with "saffronising" education.

Malhotra said that the NCERT policy framework had been based on the recommendations of a parliamentary committee headed by Congress leader S. B. Chavan. "Is it the meaning of secularism that Indian history and tradition have to be defamed?" he asked.

Chatterjee said that "never before had such diabolical attempts been made to strike at the roots of the country's ethos." He asked the BJP allies in the NDA how they could support this move.

Significantly, the Telugu Desam Party dissociated itself with the government insisting that compulsory Saraswati Vandana was as undesirable as any attempt to toy with the country's secular character.

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Referred by: Benjamin
Published on: August 18, 2001
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