?Dr Murli Manohar Joshi
Former Union HRD Minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi has said if the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government tries to reverse the changes that he had brought about in school curriculum, the people of India and the world would laugh at them. In an exclusive interview to Organiser representative Pramod Kumar, he said: ?Whatever changes were made in the education system were done in accordance with the recommendations of the Parlia-mentary Standing Committee. If they tinker with it, they will be harming the rapid growth of education in the country.? He said that the UPA government and its constituents must clarify what changes they want. Excerpts:
What will be the impact on education system with the change of government?
Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
The UPA and its constituents are saying that they will bring a change in the education system to remove saffronisation. I don'tknow whether they really understand the meaning of saffronisation. Whatever changes we brought about in education, including reformulating of the curriculum to introduce sarva-dharmasambhav and values, was in accordance with the recommendations of the HRD Parliamentary Standing Committee and the National Education Policy formulated by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 and confirmed in 1992. The induction of fundamental duties and value education in school curriculum were approved by the Supreme Court also. The number of textbooks published by the NCERT rose from two crore to more than six crore after these changes. It means the books are acceptable to students. If they now try to change it in the name of desaffronisation, I think people of India would laugh at them.
Amending the Constitution, we made primary education compulsory for children between the ages of six and 14 years and initiated the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). I can very safely say that nobody can reverse the SSA. The World Bank had described the SSA as the best educational programme anywhere in the world. See the Kendriya Vidyalaya results. We have made government-run schools better than the best public schools in the coutnry. We reduced the fees in IIMs and also increased the number of technical institutions in the country. Are they going to reduce the numbers? We have reduced the load of school bags. Every child is happy about it. Are they going to increase it again? Are they going to close down the IITs and NITs that we set up in the country? Do they want to introduce communistisation of education? Instead of saying that India has a very glorious past, will they teach Marx'sviews? I am not clear what changes they are going to make. In fact they have not gone through the books. Whatever has been done in the education system has been done in the interest of the country and if they want to tinker with it, they will be playing with the future of the country. They must clarify what changes they want.
Do you find any particular point that they can change in the name of desaffronisation?
There is no point on which they can lay their hands. They never pointed out what we had done was against the Constitution, secularism or the accepted traditions of the country. I challenge them in Parliament to point out the mistakes. If they can really point out something against the facts, Constitution or against the policy, certainly it can always be remedied. But so far they have not been able to point out even a single case.
The 1986 Education Policy was formulated by late Rajiv Gandhi. Do they have the courage to say that Rajiv Gandhi was wrong?
Let them say that it is against their policy.
?See the performance of Kendriya Vidyalayas?
Now when the BJP has been voted out of power, do you think saffronisation of education was rejected by the people?
This is a very interesting question because nobody during this campaign ever said that it was the wrong education policy. On the contrary, the changes in education were appreciated all over the country. Today, there are 18 national technical education institutions; can they say that they will close them down? Some people certainly said education has been saffronised but they do not know the meaning of saffronisation. In fact, saffron is the colour that represents the very ethos and psyche of this country. Saffronisation means to go back to the holy traditions of this country. If they want to remove it, people will judge it.
Almost every government and education expert have promised to reduce the load of school bags, but nothing concrete has been done so far. Why?
The load of school bags in all the Central Board of Secondary Education ((CBSE) schools has been reduced. It is the state governments? responsibility to take the matter seriously. Since state governments are autonomous, it depends upon them to initiate action in this direction.
How do you see the future of Dr Manmohan Singh'sgovernment?
I think the future of this government is not very bright. I would like to give them some opportunities to show their real objectives and performance. But right from the beginning, the way their partners are behaving I don'tthink this government will be able to do something positive. I wish Dr Manmohan Singh all success. But he is surrounded by such partners who will make it difficult for him to function. The stability of the government is quite doubtful.
Considering the way Smt. Sonia Gandhi declined the post of Prime Minister, how do you visualise the future of Congress party?
I have always maintained that the Congress does not inspire confidence in the minds and hearts of the people. The real story why Smt. Gandhi declined is still a mystery. Maybe she thought it was difficult for her to handle the situation. But I personally do not think that it was something of a great sacrifice. She had gone to Rashtrapati Bhawan looking very happy and as though fully prepared, along with Dr Manmohan Singh. But when she returned, she decided not to take up the responsibility. I don'tknow what happened.