| The SEZ policy that has led to unrest across the country — Bengal’s Nandigram (above) is one such spot — has been questioned in the new Class XII political science textbook brought out by the NCERT
New Delhi, June 11: Unni and Munni are robbing some government officers of sleep.
The cartoon characters keep popping up in the new political science textbook for Class XII with some “provocative” posers.
Contemporary World Politics has been prepared by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
In a country where education has long involved making students read what those in power feel comfortable with, Unni and Munni’s queries on government policies are sending officials in the human resource development ministry into a tizzy.
In a chapter on alternate centres of world power other than the US, Unni, a boy, asks: “Only six special economic zones in China, and over 200 approved in India! Is this good for India'”
The section where the question appears tells students about the failure of economies that liberalised too quickly. China, on the other hand, has taken a steadier approach, it points out.
Questioning India’s SEZ policy — already facing flak from economists from both the Left and the Right — is the last thing the textbook should have done, says a senior bureaucrat in the HRD ministry.
His colleague, who is not associated with high school education, laughs nervously when asked to comment.
“One is forced to wonder whether the authors are saying that China is better than India' It looks silly on our part, having our books questioning our own policies,” he says.
After Unni, it is Munni’s turn. She fires a question on foreign policy.
“Why is it that every one of our neighbours has a problem with India' Is there something wrong with our foreign policy or is it just our size'” Munni asks in a chapter on India’s Southeast Asian neighbours.
Alongside the question — it appears as a blurb next to the main text — students are told about India’s conflicts with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
“It’s unnecessary. I’m not saying the textbook has to shower flowers on government policies. But why raise these issues and confuse students in the bargain,” asks another bureaucrat, who says he couldn’t sleep properly the night he first saw the new textbook.
Professor Yogendra Yadav, the chief adviser for NCERT textbooks, however, says the posers are only meant to make students think and raise questions. They are not aimed at making any political statement, he clarifies.
Yadav says the textbooks were so designed that they do not have any bias — not even towards the government in power.
“I do not write for the ministry, or for that matter... the media. I write for the students alone,” he says. “People can say what they want to. Only if it is perceived that the textbook has a bias, will it bother me as an academic.”
Officials, despite their reservations, say the ministry is not considering — at least for now — removing the sensitive questions, as that could stir further controversy.