Dose of religion in school lesson plan
CBI takes cue from Vittal corruption site
Centre sounds explosives alert on poll-eve
Margis slam CBI on armsdrop
Congress blasts set ransack

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
The first preparatory document on the new national curriculum has recommended ‘‘religious education’’ in schools.

Objecting to the ‘‘dissociation between education and religion’’, the document says: ‘‘Leaving religious education entirely to home and community would result in the neglect of ethical teachings and spiritual values.’’

It points to the 1960 Sri Prakasa Committee report which, too, had highlighted the dangers of keeping religion out of school syllabi.

The curriculum committee, which has prepared the document, tries to redefine secularism and blames it for driving a wedge between education and religion. ‘‘Secularism in the present educational parlance has wrongly been understood as rejection of religion,’’ says the paper.

It suggests defining secularism as ‘‘sarvadharma sambhava’’’ (equal respect for all religions).

The paper has triggered howls of protest from educationists who fear that ‘‘religious education’’ would focus on teaching only one religion.

‘‘In any case, no one ever defined secularism as rejecting religion,’’ says an academic.

A section of educationists is miffed over several appointments in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) made by human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

Some are apprehensive that the BJP will use the new curriculum to promote its ideology. NCERT director J.S. Rajput, said the academics, was handpicked by Joshi.

The document has been prepared by the NCERT and will be discussed throughout the country before a draft paper is put in place for the new curriculum. The updated curriculum, coming after 10 years, will be relevant for all stages of school education. It is customary for states to follow guidelines chalked out by the NCERT.

In the preface of the preparatory document, Rajput says the discussion does not breach the ‘‘basic philosophy and guidelines’’ of the 1986 national policy on education. But some educationists feel the document, in parts, is subverting the 1986 guidelines.

On value education, the document suggests that morning assemblies in schools should impart information on religious leaders.

‘‘Simple and interesting stories about lives and teachings of saints and prophets of different religions should be told,’’ it says. The paper says that two periods every week should be kept aside for ‘‘moral instruction’’.

‘‘Suitable speakers may be invited to address students on moral and spiritual values. Joint celebrations of major festivals of different religions should be organised,’’ it adds.

Apart from some of its contents, educationists are also complaining about the quality of the document. Those who are translating it are finding it difficult to understand it in parts.

‘‘It is so garbled,’’ says an academic.    

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
Emboldened by Central Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal’s release of names of “corrupt” IAS and IPS officers on the organisation’s website, the CBI is following suit. It has put out advertisements in national dailies asking citizens to bring to its notice any instance of corruption by an employee of the Central government or public sector undertaking.

The ad says: “If you have any specific information on corrupt public servants... just log on to our website and click the ‘contact us’ button. Give your genuine e-mail address for us to contact you if the need arises. Your identity will be kept confidential.” It goes on to lure informers with suitable rewards.

The CBI openly sought information on “black sheep” in the bureaucracy after Vittal’s scheme had caused a furore. Vittal has been decried as a gimmick artist in IAS circles and association meetings. Many bureaucrats complained this would demoralise members of the civil services.

Several IAS officers have objected to Vittal jumping the gun since most of the corruption charges are yet to be conclusively proved. They also rued the fact that Vittal had not cross-checked before going ahead with the publication of names.

Two of the bureaucrats, whose names have appeared on the website, are dead. Several of the accused officers are discussing the possibility of suing Vittal and the vigilance panel. There is a move afoot to lodge a complaint in court.

That the CBI has followed in the vigilance panel’s footsteps has raised eyebrows because the agency is already burdened with a large number of cases and not enough officers. Investigation of fresh cases would put further strain on the CBI.

Some bureaucrats derided the CBI ploy as a computer game for investigators to fool around with. Others, however, pointed out that the agency must have given the go-ahead by the department of personnel, which is under the Prime Minister.

The CBI said it was aware that there would be several false allegations, but the entire issue would be dealt with confidentially. Complaints would be examined carefully and files opened for genuine cases only.

Vittal’s campaign has already borne fruit. The CVC’s office has been inundated with complaints of graft. Its state units have received 9,200 complaints while the general public has pitched in with 8,408 complaints. Vittal says an enquiry is conducted into every case, at the end of which the panel decides the fate of those found to be corrupt.

Even for those penalised, there are two categories — of major and minor penalties. The CVC’s present list is for whom it has recommended prosecution and major penalties.

“From the beginning, I was looking at ways to use technology to bring about a grater transparency,” says Vittal.    

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
Concerned over the increased recovery of explosive substances, the Union home ministry has asked all states, including the four going to polls, to clamp down on explosives dealers.

A home ministry spokesman today said that following a meeting of state police chiefs chaired by special secretary (internal security) M.B. Kaushal on January 20, instructions were issued to all states to step up vigilance on the manufacture, storage, movement and sale of explosives. This follows fears that terrorists may step up activities during the coming polls.

Deliberating on specific cases like the Coimbatore serial blasts, it emerged from the meeting that all explosives are not smuggled in from Pakistan by ISI agents. Some of the explosives reportedly originated from Indian manufacturing units and dealers.

The explosives used in the Coimbatore blasts in February 1998 were illegally procured by the terrorists from the Indian Explosives Corporation, a factory based in Mysore. Investigations revealed that the factory had made several illegal supplies to unauthorised quarry and mine owners.

It was decided at the meeting that there was an urgent need to amend existing laws and procedures which regulate production, transport and sale of explosives.

Accordingly, the states have been asked to issue instructions to superintendents of police and district magistrates to monitor movement of explosives.

Last month, a consignment of 200 kg of gelatine sticks was seized at Hazaribagh, Bihar, which has a long history of poll-related violence and blasts.

Union home secretary Kamal Pande has also sent letters to the industrial development secretary, asking him to immediately implement the decisions taken at the January 20 meeting. Pande has directed that it should be made mandatory for manufacturers and dealers to report the sale and movement of explosives to the district administration. Producers will henceforth have to stamp identification marks on consignments before transportation.

Kaushal shot off another letter on Friday to the home secretaries and police chiefs of the states going to polls that all DMs and SPs of districts, where “transactions in explosives originate” as well as the districts to which consignments are despatched, should be informed well in advance of the sale.

The DMs and SPs will have to ensure there is proper inspection of the premises of manufacturers and dealers.

The district administrations have been directed to crack down on dealers who fail to “explain” excess stock. The Explosives Act, 1884, Explosive Substances Act, 1908, and Indian Penal Code will be invoked to penalise the guilty.    

Calcutta, Jan. 31 
The judgment in the Purulia arms-drop case, delivered by Justice P.K. Biswas today, drew sharp reactions from the saffron-clad sadhus huddled outside the courtroom of the 4th sessions Bench.

“The acquittal of Vinay Kumar Singh, a follower of the Ananda Marga, and the judge’s categorical statement about the prosecution’s failure to establish links of international conspiracy to our organisation, shows how we have been falsely persecuted,” said Bhavaneshananda Avadhuta, public relations secretary of the Ananda Marga Pracharak Samgha.

After the arms-drop, the Margis, followers of a cult traditionally opposed to the ruling Marxists in West Bengal, had been labelled as suspected “end-users”.

Biswas, however, gave them a clean chit, saying: “Sufficient evidence could not be produced by the prosecution to link up the Ananda Marga organisation as a whole with the present matter. As per material available, the institution itself cannot be implicated in the present case.”

Regarding Singh, he said: “The prosecution has not been able to establish his role... (so) he is acquitted from this case.”

According to Avadhuta, “The CBI, instead of trying to find out the truth, was trying to cover up by framing false and mischievous charges against the Ananda Marga.” He also alleged that, besides Singh, 13 other Margis had been picked up on “false charges”.

The organisation is now demanding a “high-level enquiry by a sitting Supreme Court Judge”.

Some questions raised by the Margis are:

Who placed the order for the consignment?

How did Kim Davy, the prime accused, escape from the high security zone of Mumbai airport and who helped him?

Why did the home ministry not act upon advance information from British intelligence?

It is imperative on the government’s part to institute an enquiry as it compromises national security. The enquiry commission must also probe the role of the various intelligence agencies,” the Margis concluded.    

New Delhi, Jan. 31 
The Congress today said the ransacking of Deepa Mehta’s Water sets by BJP-VHP men was yet another example of Sangh parivar’s “intolerance”, reports our special correspondent..

The party urged Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to allow shooting of the film at Tulsighat in Varanasi. Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to UPCC chief Salman Khurshid and CLP leader Pramod Tiwari over phone to ascertain facts. The UPCC is planning to send a delegation to Varanasi to get a first-hand report.

The Congress alleged that the BJP’s “hidden agenda” was being unmasked by its rank and file.    


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