Bengal rejects Modi's project
New Delhi/Calcutta: Bengal has opted out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat programme, aimed at promoting interactions between people of diverse cultures from different states.
A senior official from the Bengal higher education department said the state government had found certain provisions in the format "not agreeable", but did not specify them.
"In the case of West Bengal, it was like talking to a wall," said a senior official of the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry, which is coordinating the programme.
The programme partners states and Union territories into pairs or trios and encourages activities such as holding cultural events, literary festivals and essay and debate contests (in educational institutions) in each other's language, sharing proverbs that have identical meaning, and cross-translating eminent writers' works.
Under instructions from the Prime Minister's Office, the HRD ministry has formed 13 pairs and three trios of states and Union territories, with Bengal alone missing from the list.
Three ministry officials confirmed that the Bengal government had failed to answer repeated letters seeking its participation.
"Correspondence with the states started in November last year. All the states responded except West Bengal," an official said.
He said the Union higher education secretary had written three letters to the Bengal chief secretary in the past one year, and the higher education department's economic adviser despatched several more to the Bengal higher education secretary.
"The (Union) higher education secretary held several videoconferences but West Bengal did not participate
All the paired states have entered into agreements and some have already started the activities. The HRD ministry recently asked all the states to prepare calendars of events for the whole year and share them with the central government by October 31.
The ministry wants to start a television channel to cover all the activities under the programme.
"It is envisaged through this exchange that the knowledge of the language, culture, traditions and practices of different states will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between one another, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India," an official said.
Sources in the National Council of Educational Research and Training, an education think tank, said the experiment with cultural integration was not new. They cited the Centre's policy under which schoolchildren have to learn their mother tongue, English and one more Indian language.
The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti schools that provide quality education to poor rural children have been implementing an innovative migration scheme to promote national integration since their inception in the 1980s.
They conduct inter-state exchange of students between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking districts for one academic year in Class IX.