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Minister hat off to mission

Calcutta, Dec. 20: It was not the abject admission but, rather, the place where it came that was surprising.

A few years after trying its best to unsettle the Ramakrishna Mission-run primary school at Baranagar for daring to teach English at the primary level when the Left Front government was yet to be convinced about its benefits, a Cabinet minister owned up that the education policy was riddled with mistakes.

Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty was speaking at a private function in Belur Math, the mission’s headquarters.

Chakraborty, one of the heads in the front’s education cell, was the chief guest at an exhibition organised by students of the Belur-based Ramakrishna Mission Shiksha Mandira.

After inaugurating the exhibition today, Chakraborty — addressing a select group of monks and students of the institution — said the government had made “many” mistakes while framing its education policy. “But people learn from their mistakes,” he added, claiming that the government, too, was trying to identify the mistakes it had made, “based on experience”.

“We want to build up the right ambience for education in West Bengal,” the minister said.

But here, too, Chakraborty admitted that Ramakrishna Mission had got a head-start. Reminiscing about the days when he was a student (between 1948 and early 1950), Chakraborty admitted that he used to steal into the mission complex at Belur — with “some tiffin and water” — and spend the day studying beside the Hooghly.

“What used to attract me then was the brilliant ambience for studying, for the quest of knowledge,” the minister, who used to live in nearby Bally, said. The atmosphere has not changed one bit, he added.

“Your aim and our aim are the same,” Chakraborty said, looking at Swami Smaranananda (general secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission), Swami Ramananda (secretary of the Belur-based institution) and Swami Jnanavratachaitanya (officiating principal of the institution). “Both of us want to create the right ambience for the quest of knowledge.”

And, though there were “some differences”, they were not “that important”, he said. “I would like to stress that our government, with its limited resources, will offer all help to the mission in its efforts to keep things this way at Belur Math,” Chakraborty said.

Things, however, were very different in 1998, when the state government fought a — not very dignified — battle with the mission over it’s decision to teach English from the primary level at its Baranagar institution.

There were several instances of North 24-Parganas District Primary School Council officials acting against the interests of the school, including holding up some teachers’ pay. The circumstances had forced the school authorities to publicly declare that they would forgo all financial help from the government by way of the approved teachers’ salary.

Things were sorted out only after the intervention of the “highest level” of the CPM and the government but not before both lost an image-scarring battle.

Relief missions

The mission undertook relief and rehabilitation programmes in 800 villages across the country this year. A mission spokesman said the rehabilitation work initiated after the super cyclone in Orissa two years ago was complete. Work is on to help the victims of last year’s quake in Gujarat.

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