The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Joshi orders review on Premchand

New Delhi, May 6: Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi has directed the Central Board of Secondary Education to hold a meeting and review its decision to scrap a Munshi Premchand novel from the Class XII Hindi syllabus.

The CBSE had replaced the novel with another authored by Mridula Sinha, a BJP functionary and president of the Central Social Welfare Board.

The board’s Hindi committee will meet tomorrow to take a decision.

According to sources in the human resources development ministry, Joshi believes injustice has been done to the Hindi literary giant and wants Premchand to be restored to his “prestigious” place. There is a possibility that the CBSE might reverse its decision and reintroduce Nirmala, a novel about the plight of women.

The CBSE’s decision had created a furore in Hindi literary circles, which said the board had replaced a “giant” with a “pygmy”.

While Sinha acolytes said she is an author in her own right, Hindi literary pundits maintained that she has “no reputation as an author and least of all a reputation that can match Premchand’s”.

Sinha’s novel, Jo Mehndi Ka Rang (The Colour of Mehndi), is about physically challenged people.

This is the first time that Joshi has taken into account criticism about a new school text since he assumed charge as human resources development minister. Till now, he has dismissed outright the Opposition’s criticism that the new school curriculum put in place by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is aimed at promoting “Hindutva”. Joshi maintains that he is only placing Indian history in its “correct perspective”.

However, unlike the controversy over the NCERT’s curriculum, criticism of the CBSE’s decision has come more from Hindi literary circles than from political parties. Though Opposition members voiced protests in the Rajya Sabha, they could not make it an issue of debate.

The NCERT has washed its hands of the controversy, saying the decision was solely that of the CBSE. According to insiders in the human resources development ministry, the CBSE went ahead with the decision to remove Premchand without Joshi’s sanction.

Though the CBSE could have given the students the option of choosing between Premchand and Sinha, it prescribed only one text. According to critics, the real factor behind the CBSE’s decision was that Sinha presides over the Central Social Welfare Board.

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