A scene from the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Deewar and a tale on Dalit writer Om Prakash Valmiki are one of the many innovative sections in the Class VII NCERT textbook, Social and Political Life II. The textbook tries to explain the tenets of our Constitution framed in our immediate social reality.
“All these examples are part of Equality in Indian Democracy, Unit I of the textbook. For the first time, the textbook development committee has written in the foreword of the book that Civics should be discontinued and the lessons should be connected with the students’ lives,” said BC Patro, NCERT spokesman.
There is also a story of an imaginary couple, Mr & Mrs Ansari, whose efforts to find a house on rent in a major metro of the city are thwarted because of their last name. “The city has not been named. But the couple is advised by the middleman to change their name if they wanted a house,” added Patro.
The textbook then goes on to cite two matrimonial advertisements from newspapers that invites alliances for a 32-year-old IT professional. The chapter points out how the advertisement says “Caste No Bar”, but then goes on to say, “SCs please excuse”. “It shows how so many years after Independence, caste and religion continue to play an important part in our lives,” he said.
The book seeks to inculcate not just self-esteem, but also respect for the dignity of others. In the first chapter, stills from the 1975 blockbuster, Deewar, have been used to illustrate how the young Amitabh displays a remarkable sense of dignity when he refuses to pick up a coin a man throws on the road after he polishes his shoes. Examples are also drawn from real life stories to illustrate the plight of Dalits in the country and also to bust gender myths that create stereotypes about the role of men and women.
“We have included an excerpt from Dalit writer Omprakash Valmiki’s autobiography, Jhootan, where he relates how he was made to sweep the floors and sit at a distance from his classmates because of his caste. The book also illustrates the lives of women who were trailblazers in their times and professions,” said Patro.
The book also tells the story of Rama Bai, a 17th century pioneer of women’s education, who set up a printing press near Pune in 1898 at a time when this was considered a male bastion. The printing press is still operational.