Centre starts Har Ghar Dhyan campaign, ropes in UGC
The Centre has started a Har Ghar Dhyan campaign to promote meditation among all Indians and has got the University Grants Commission and the school board CBSE to nudge the country’s universities, colleges and schools to get students and teachers to participate.
The move comes months after the government, under the Har Ghar Tiranga drive, prodded all Indian homes to display the national flag in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of Independence last August.
The UGC, the autonomous higher education regulator, had been drafted into that campaign too in a reflection of the Centre’s keenness to influence students.
Now the UGC has written to the vice-chancellors of all universities and principals of all colleges to join the HarGhar Dhyan programme, being conducted in collaboration with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living.
The CBSE has written a similar letter to its 25,000 affiliated schools countrywide.
Former Delhi University executive council member Abha Dev Habib felt that these campaigns with names starting with “Har Ghar” had their root in the “Har Ghar Modi” campaign the BJP had run ahead of the 2014 general election.
“‘Har Ghar’ is a BJP slogan. The UGC is advertising for the BJP and Ravi Shankar,” Habib said.
The UGC letter said: “Under the aegis of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, ministry of culture has collaborated with the Art of Living foundation and launched a campaign ‘Har Ghar Dhyan’ to conduct one hour introductory sessions on meditation and mental health for people from all walks of life.
“The modules have been developed by founder of Art of Living Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji and trained faculty from Art of Living shall conduct these sessions free of any cost to the interested organisations (subject to capacity and execution plan).
“The higher educational institutions and their affiliated colleges/ institutions are requested to encourage students and faculty members to take benefit of this program(me) by introducing to meditation as a solution for positive mental health.”
Interested institutions can fill up the request form and nominate a senior member of the faculty or non-teaching staff as “meditation ambassador” for the programme, the letter said. It added that the Art of Living would directly contact and coordinate with the meditation ambassadors for the conduct of these sessions.
Ravi Shankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have in the past praised each other in public. Ravi Shankar had been embroiled in controversy when the Art of Living organised a huge event on the Yamuna’s floodplains in Delhi in 2016, prompting the National Green Bench to fine the organisation Rs 5 crore for the ecological damage.
“Ravi Shankar’s event caused damage to the environment; now the UGC is being used to propagate his message,” Habib said.
She said the UGC had been harnessed to similar campaigns in the recent past, highlighting how it had before Independence Day circulated a letter asking institutions to encourage staff and students to fly the Tricolour at their homes.
“The UGC’s job is primarily to maintain the standard of higher education. It has been reduced to a wing of the government for the propagation of its programmes,” Habib said.
A release from the Press Information Bureau, the central government’s publicity arm, had on October 27 said the Har Ghar Dhyan would engage Art of Living teachers as meditation coaches, and representatives of institutions and interested members of the public as meditation ambassadors.