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Sangh groups at Smriti door

Four-hour meet to lobby for key posts

By Our Bureau
  • Published 19.07.15
  •  
 Smriti Irani 

New Delhi, July 18: A group of RSS affiliates today met Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani over four hours and lobbied to get their nominees into key posts at premier educational institutions, sources said.

Several central universities, IITs and IIMs as well as school boards and textbook publishers have vacancies at the top.

Although none from the minister's office or the Sangh-affiliated organisations would officially confirm it, sources said the meeting discussed appointments and the new education policy.

Held at the minister's home, the meeting drew representatives from Sangh education wings Vidya Bharati and Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal, student arm Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and teachers' body Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh.

Also present were members from the Samskrita Bharati, which promotes Sanskrit, and the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, led by Sangh ideologue Dinanath Batra, which had moved court against Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History and got Penguin India to withdraw it.

Sources said inputs were shared at the meeting on the new national education policy that Irani's ministry is expected to announce early next year. The delegates emphasised that the policy should instil "nationalism, pride and ancient Indian values in modern education".

Irani has been nudged from the top to keep herself on the right side of the Sangh and its affiliates, sources said. They added that she would face a challenge balancing the demands of these competing organisations - each of which came with a wish list of candidates for key posts -since she is not from the Sangh and is not versed on its functioning.

Her forebear in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Murli Manohar Joshi, knew the Sangh better and had fewer education affiliates to handle anyway.

Irani has many posts to fill. The central universities in Odisha, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kashmir have lacked vice-chancellors for over a year, while the IITs in Delhi, Indore and Mandi have no directors and the IIMs in Kozhikode, Lucknow and Ranchi lack chairpersons.

The Central Board of Secondary Education, the country's largest school board, too is without a chairperson. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) lacks a director and the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, which runs a chain of schools, is waiting for a commissioner.

Posts in the NCERT, which prepares school textbooks, have always been coveted by the Sangh and its affiliates, who feel that schools now largely ignore India's "glorious past".

Recently, the Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal and the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti released their own draft education policies to mount pressure on the government. Their policies give priority to Indian languages, "value education", national heroes and Vedic mathematics.

Mandal national organising secretary Mukul Kanitkar told a news conference last week that the government and the Sangh were on the same page on policy issues.