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Murmurs against Modi T-Day speech fiat

Narendra Modi Children celebrate Teachers’ Day with their teachers in Santiniketan in 2013

New Delhi, Aug. 31 (PTI): The government’s directive to schools across the country to make arrangements for Narendra Modi’s Teachers’ Day plan to reach out to every student has failed to enthuse the capital’s private schools, which say the order “forcing” strict compliance would dampen the celebratory mood.

At least one school principal spoke of “structural, administrative and technological difficulties” in implementing the directive of the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) to arrange for TV sets, set-top box connections, projectors, screens, amplifiers and generator sets for the September 5 broadcast.

“It’s a good initiative on the part of the Prime Minister to bond with students and also make efforts to enhance the image of teachers in the eyes of students. But Teachers’ Day is a special day for the teachers to enjoy. So, though it is a good initiative, teachers will end up spending the entire day to ensure implementation of the government directive,” said Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal, Spring Dales, Pusa Road.

Modi is scheduled to give a pep talk to some 1,000 selected students at the Manekshaw Auditorium here and interact with them, taking questions through videoconference. The telecast would start at 3pm and continue up to 4.45pm.

The event would be beamed live to over 18 lakh government and private schools across the country via all Doordarshan and education channels.

The DoE notification, which followed an order from the human resource development ministry, asked both private and government schools to organise a broadcast of the Prime Minister’s address and a Q&A session with schoolchildren through television or through the Internet from 3pm to 4.45pm.

“All heads of schools of government, government-aided, unaided (and) MCDs (corporations) shall make arrangement to assemble the children in order from 2.30pm to 4.45pm on that day so that children (can) view the Prime Minister’s address,” the directive said.

It said government schools could use funds from the school welfare committee Vidyalaya Kalyan Samiti for making the necessary arrangements. “In government schools, all the necessary expenditure for hiring items for (the) aforesaid arrangements shall be incurred from the VKS fund,” the directive said.

The directive has also asked all heads of government schools in Delhi that run in a single shift to hold classes from 1.00pm to 5.30pm on September 5.

The Delhi government has asked the education department to submit a preparedness report by 5pm on Tuesday while all the heads of schools have been asked to submit details of the number of students that view the programme.

The DoE notification said district officials would “visit” schools in their jurisdiction to “monitor and ensure” that the directives — “to be complied with strictly” — were being followed in “letter and spirit”.

“Any laxity in the arrangements shall be viewed seriously,” the directive warned.

Madhulika Sen, principal, Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, said many private schools would find it difficult to make the arrangements.

“The main concern is getting all the students assembled at one place and then making them listen to the Prime Minister. We have two auditoriums, so we would be able to manage,” Sen said. “But what about the smaller private schools?”

She, however, lauded the initiative, saying students were “eagerly looking forward to hear him”.

The HRD ministry has deputed senior officials to liaison with state governments and remove any “logistical hurdles”.

“There are hundreds of schools in areas without access to electricity. We have asked for hiring generators and to put in place a TV set in schools there,” said a ministry.

Asked if schools had been asked to change timings for students to stay back, a ministry official said they couldn’t issue such directions and has not “mandated” anything.

The Centre’s order has sent many states, including those not run by the BJP or its allies such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana, scrambling to make the “necessary arrangements” for the telecast, including hiring TV sets in schools where there are none.

A voice of dissent came from Bengal. “If they (the Centre) give us such instructions, then there is very little time to make arrangements now,” education minister Partha Chatterjee said. “Where is the infrastructure in schools?”

Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said the Centre’s directive for compulsory attendance for the Prime Minister’s televised interaction reflected a “dictatorial mindset and attitude”.

“We have no objections to students listening to speeches of the President, the Prime Minister and the chief minister,” he said. “But the way it is being forced is surprising.”