Human resources development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday said he will build on the “good initiatives” of his predecessor Smriti Irani, a day after he was elevated to the position in an unexpected reshuffling of NDA government portfolios.
“We believe education is a weapon of change, ensuring everyone gets good education will be our goal,” the HRD minister said at a press briefing. “Every parent wants good education for their children, so giving good education is our job. We will achieve this through everyone’s cooperation. Modiji has a vision regarding education, so quality of education will be the main focus.”
Javadekar said he would also consult former HRD ministers Irani and Murli Manohar Joshi in this regard.
Irani faced many jibes following her ‘demotion’, especially on micro-blogging website Twitter, but the new HRD minister didn’t join in the chorus. “We will build upon the good initiatives taken up by Smriti Irani,” he said .
Javadekar promised a new roadmap for education, and invited ideas and suggestions from everybody concerned to develop the sector. “Education is an emancipator, it is a real change agent. And if we want to build a modern India for the 21st century, we need to revolutionise education,” he said, adding that the best way to realise this would be by reviewing the education policy every year.
The HRD minister claimed that education was a priority for the Modi government because it held the key to the nation’s development. “Modiji has a vision for education. But I will consult everybody because it is not a BJP or a party subject... it is everyone’s subject,” he said.
When asked to comment on the student movements at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the University of Hyderabad, which he has inherited from Irani, Javadekar said: “I am a product of students’ agitation myself (launched by veteran Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan in 1974). I will talk to everybody. When there’s a dialogue in place, there will be no need for agitations.”
The move to shift Irani to the relatively unglamorous textiles ministry and replace her with Javadekar caught many by shock on Tuesday. Though Irani was regarded as one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s favourite ministers, her stint at the helm of the HRD ministry saw no end of controversies.
For one, she was often accused by the Left of ‘Hinduising’ India’s school and college curricula. Then, when detractors accused her of never attending college, Irani said she went to Yale. It was later discovered that she had merely attended a week-long workshop at the prestigious university.
Her image received a further setback when the crisis set off by the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s student union, almost went out of hand.
Javadekar, on the other hand, worked in consonance with Modi’s vision and strategy for the environment. However, as the minister of state (independent charge) for environment, forests and climate change, Javadekar received his share of criticism too – he was accused by activists of freely giving away green clearances to projects with dubious environmental credentials.
The other BJP members who gained from Tuesday’s reshuffle were Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Ananth Kumar and Manoj Sinha.