Calcutta, Sept. 1: Murli Manohar Joshi, the Union human resources development minister, had yesterday called the Left Front regime “barbaric and thoughtless”. Today, Jyoti Basu called the “educated” Joshi’s behaviour “uncivilised”.
Joshi had trained guns on the Left for politicising education and its “unabashed doctoring of history”.
School education minister Kanti Biswas told a hurriedly convened news conference today that Bengal’s literacy rate had increased by 21 per cent in the past 10 years. The rise must be larger than that in any BJP-ruled state, he added. Putting the government’s riposte on record, Biswas wrote a letter to Joshi.
Hours after the central minister left the city, Alimuddin Street mandarins resented the manner in which the Union minister called the front regime “barbaric and thoughtless”.
“I wonder how an educated person like Joshi can behave in such an uncivilised manner. He insulted the people of Bengal and the BJP government at the Centre will get a fitting reply in the coming elections,” said Basu.
Taking a cue from Basu, Biswas blasted Joshi for bringing communal elements into education. “I feel the BJP is not saffronising education but introducing communal elements into it to destroy our rich heritage and culture. Don’t forget the very word saffron has a sacred message,” he said.
Releasing copies of his letter to the Union minister, Biswas ticked off Joshi for questioning the quality of education in the state. “We wonder how a Union minister representing a country of 106 crore people can make such hollow and baseless comments. I have heard that Joshi is a teacher of physics and we expect his comments to be based on facts and figures,” said Biswas.
The government “has nothing to do” if Joshi continues to make irresponsible comments” whenever he addresses public meetings in Bengal, Biswas said. “This smacks of bad taste. I am sure he will lose credibility by repeatedly accusing the Bengal government of politicising education. It is an insult to the people here.”
Refuting Joshi’s allegation that appointments in educational institutions in Bengal are made on political considerations, Biswas claimed that the recruitment policy was more transparent than in any other state.
“Bengal has been rewarded by the Unesco for successfully implementing the time-bound projects for expansion of literacy programmes,” said the minister.