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Assam boy forces textbook revision

New Delhi, Feb. 5: A Class X student from Assam has made the 50-year-old National Council of Educational Research and Training erase a “careless sentence” from one of its textbooks.

The NCERT, the national agency publishing textbooks, has removed a controversial reference about tourism in the Northeastern states only after Kavya Barnadhya Hazarika, the schoolboy from Guwahati, pointed it out. The NCERT removed the sentence that attributed the slugging tourism sector in the hilly states to “strategic reasons”.

The sentence in the chapter on “Lifelines of National Economy” in the NCERT published geography textbook for Class X read: “There is vast potential of tourism development in the northeastern states and the interior parts of Himalayas, but due to strategic reasons these have not been encouraged so far.”

Hazarika last year wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking clarification on what were those “strategic reasons” that came in the way of tourism development in the Northeast. The Prime Minister’s Office had forwarded the letter to the HRD ministry for appropriate action.

At that time, Union tourism secretary Pervez Dewan had written to Kavya, saying the NCERT had been told to remove the “careless sentence”.

Sources in the HRD ministry said the matter was taken up with NCERT which had published the book. The textbook development committee of the NCERT examined the complaint and suggested modification in the paragraph.

The modified paragraph will only highlight the tourism potential in India with emphasis on the Northeastern region. It will not say anything on “strategic reasons”, NCERT sources said. The revised paragraph has been incorporated in the new edition of the textbook that will come out in a month’s time.

AIADMK MP P. Venugopal today raised the issue in the Lok Sabha. In a written reply, HRD minister of state Shashi Tharoor said textbook development involved a rigorous process.

“Every effort is being made to ensure that no stereotype or prejudice creeps into the texts and the activities prescribed by the textbooks in any manner,” Tharoor said.

NCERT sources said it publishes 359 textbooks for Classes I to XII. It has received complaints from various forums on several other references also.

Certain references to the Nadar community in an NCERT textbook had angered Tamil Nadu politicians last year. They alleged that the Nadar community had been depicted in a “poor light” in the Class IX social science textbook, India and the Contemporary World-1.

A chapter titled “Clothing: A Social History” in the book had said the Nadars were toddy-tappers and had migrated to the southern Travancore state in the 19th century to work under Nair landlords.

It said Travancore had barred Nadar women from wearing blouses, a ban they could escape only by converting to Christianity.

The NCERT’s textbook development committee that had prepared the book suggested deletion of the references to Nadars being migrants and toddy tappers. It also recommended certain modifications to the references to the dress code for Nadar women. The recommendations were carried out.