RSS-BJP Spat Over Educational Policy

Proposed ‘National Education Policy’ is nothing but eyewash and a hostage to RSS

By Anil Anand

Rolled into the fifth and final year of its tenure and having already claimed the scalp of a high-profile Human Resource Development Minister the much talked about education policy of the Narendra Modi Government is nowhere in sight. The garrulous, pushing but inexperienced Samriti Zubin Irani had got a break of her life when she was thrust in the high profile HRD Ministry but soon found herself caught in the crossfire to be only shown the exit door and was replaced by a more mild mannered and accommodating Prakash Javdekar.

With Irani gone and Javdekar in office for two years now, the new education policy is still to see light of the day. The crossfire that consumed Irani continues unabated till date. The major source of crossfire is alleged to be the RSS with Government on the other end and the HRD Minister finding herself/himself trapped in between. The ideological trappings of the RSS seemed to have become a stumbling block as from all available indications the top brass of the outfit is not kindly disposed towards an education policy that does not meet the parameters set by it which mostly pertain to the RSS’s perception of Indian culture and heritage, and of course the linguistic bias.

None other than the controversial Minister of State for HRD Satyapal Singh confirmed in as many words that the RSS has serious concerns on the shaping of the new education policy to its liking. He recently visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur and ostensibly held deliberations on the proposed policy which is being drafted for the last four years.

Admitting that RSS was concerned about its perception of what the new education policy should look like, Singh said that the issues raised from time to time by the outfit would be addressed. The prominent among the RSS’s demand has been imparting primary education in Indian/local languages and also as to how the ancient Indian knowledge can be included in modern school syllabus.

It is not that no forward movement ever took place on this issue ever since the Narendra Modi Government took charge in May 2014. The Government had initiative the consultation process of formulating the new education policy in July 27, 2015 when by the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani. Accordingly a committee under the chairmanship of former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanium was constituted on October 31, 2015 .

On October 1, 2016 the HRD Minister released the draft of National Education Policy-2016 and suggestions were invited from the public based on the on the report submitted to the ministry on April 30, 2016. Intriguingly, the recommendations of this committee never saw light of the day.

In all probability the recommendations of the TSR Subramanium committee seem to have been dumped. Exasperated and frustrated by Irani’s inaction on his recommendations he expressed his serious reservations on the Minister’s apathy. Ultimately, the committee’s findings appeared in the media that led to Irani taking on Subramanium. It is learnt that the Ministry had pressed for adding certain inputs in the committee’s report ostensibly based on the RSS’s point of view which was opposed by its chairperson.

And within a year of that elusive report, the new HRD Minister Javdekar set up a new committee under eminent scientist Prof K Kasturirangan. Announcing the committee, the ministry had then stated that “Consultations were held at tehsil, district and state level. Regional conferences were organized where state governments have given their detailed opinion.  Rajya Sabha debated the issues and a special education dialogue was organisedin which 48 MPs took part.

However, nothing has happened on this front so far despite the Ministry repeatedly fixing new deadlines for the release of the policy based on recommendations of the new committee. Instead, the Kasturirangan committee which was supposed to give its report in March 2018 has since been given two extensions raising serious concerns whether the new education policy will at all come out before May 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

It is believed that the HRD Ministry has not been able to convince the RSS top brass to see reasoning and not press for their ideologically guided ideas on education. The RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) had mad suggestions such as removing foreign languages completely from the curriculum — even as an alternative; that all research should be connected to “national requirements” and those projects that do not fulfill this criteria, should be taken off UGC scholarships. It had also suggested that references that insult Indian culture and offer incorrect explanations should also be removed.

It has also recommended that the ministry must attempt to gradually remove English at all levels of education, both in private and government schools, colleges and universities. These suggestions were made in meeting between Atul Kothari, leader of the SSUN and HRD minister Javadekar.

The SSUN also asked the government to “immediately provide facilities to introduce education in Indian languages in English-medium institutions like IIT, IIM and NIT”, by the SSUN. Since the Government was unable to thrash out the issue with RSS the new education policy is still a matter of debates.

The proposed National Education Policy of the HRD ministry continues to face twists and turns. The Subramanian committee formulated a final draft of the policy and submitted to the HRD ministry in May 2016. Irani, however, rejected the panel’s report following a tiff with Subramanian over the leaking of the contents of the draft policy before her approval.

The ministry revised the committee’s report and declared it as “some inputs” for the proposed new education policy after the original report drew flak from the students, teachers and the Opposition parties over some of its recommendations which included a suggestion to “abjure” students’ politics on the university campuses.

The subsequent Kasturirangan committee is also finding itself tied in knots. It has become a fight between the scientific temper and ideology backed mindset of a particular kind. The question is being continuously asked as to when would the National Education Policy of the current Government come.