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Rajasthan Pulls A Vanishing Act Of The Nehru-Gandhis From Its School Curriculum

Saffronising education again?

03/07/2017 12:12 PM IST | Updated 03/07/2017 12:16 PM IST
Jorge Silva / Reuters
Children attend an afternoon lesson in Jaipur, capital of India's desert state of Rajasthan.

Every year, the student who scores the highest in their districts in Classes 10 and 12 of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education are given cash rewards. This is only meant for girl students and was started in 2002.

The award is named Indira Priyadarshini Puruskar Yojana.

Now, the government has decided to do away with the former Prime Minister's name and call it Padmakshi Puruskar Yojana, reports Hindustan Times. The strange thing the award was first initiated to commemorate the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi on 19 November.

In fact, it's not just the name.

The award will be given on Basant Panchami every year. Padmakshi is another name for Goddess Saraswati, the deity associated with knowledge. Therefore, the education department has decided to organise the award ceremony on the day when Hindus celebrate Basant panchami.

Ashok Gehlot who had initiated the award in 2010, told Hindustan Times, "Changing names of government schemes is a manifestation of a mean mentality. Schemes are named after leaders of the country not of parities. This is a dangerous trend."

In the scheme, an award Rs 50,000 was given to Class 12 toppers and Rs 40,000 to Class 10 district toppers in four categories: schedules caste, scheduled tribe, other backward class and minorities. Later, he had included general category girls in the scheme and increased the award money.

Education minister Vasudev Devnani refused to comment when asked about the name change.

Last year, the social Science textbook for Class VIII in schools of Rajasthan erased Jawharlal Nehru from the pages of history. It does not mention who India's first Prime Minister was.

The ruling party's attempt to saffronise education in the states ruled by the BJP is not a new thing at all.

"There's a growing clamour for giving more space to India's ancient past even if it means erasing "Islamic" medieval history. Even key figures like Mughal Emperor Akbar, famous for his religious tolerance, are at a risk of being effaced from history books across various states," notes a blog on rewriting of textbook history.

And Rajasthan has been a witness to this for a while now. The new textbooks for Class 10 and 12 introduced this year, has a passing reference to Mahatma Gandhi, no reference to Jawaharlal Nehru. Meanwhile, RSS ideologue Veer Savarkar occupies a large space.

To promote the idea of 'nationalism' and 'patriotism', the Class 10 book has allotted space to Savarkar who has been described as a great revolutionary and a great patriot. Meanwhile, the textbook for class 11th Political Science says that Congress was a 'nurture baby' of the British, established by the capitalists and representatives of the upper middle class.

Business Universities in the state have included excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Vedas, in addition to concepts by thinkers like Kautilya, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi as part of its commerce and business administration courses.

Justifying the move, a professor told Catch News, "What people don't realise is that there are many things a commerce student can learn from ancient Indian scriptures. Kautilya taught us about economics and statecraft. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita taught us about managerial skills; Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi preached about inclusive models of growth. The Vedas teaches us ethics; business and commerce cannot be unethical. We must not undermine our own great scholars and thinkers."

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