Human resource development minister Smriti Irani said on Monday that students had the choice to not participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned interaction with them to mark Teachers’ Day on September 5, rejecting reports that the children were being forced to take part.
“This particular activity is voluntary in nature. If it is being politicised, then I would say it is regrettable,” Irani told reporters on the sidelines of an event.
Modi will connect with about 1,000 selected students at the Manekshaw auditorium in the capital on Teachers’ Day. The programme, which will see the PM interact with the children and take questions via video conferencing, will be beamed live to over 180,000 government and private schools in the country through Doordarshan and educational channels.
Read: Delhi pvt schools unhappy over PM live speech order
Irani also denied that the Centre was celebrating the day — the birth anniversary of former President Dr S Radhakrishnan — as ‘Guru Utsav’, saying it was the name of an essay competition.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi had taken exception to the term, saying it was a conspiracy to belittle the Tamil language and society. PMK, a BJP ally in Tamil Nadu, had called it a discreet attempt to impose Sanskrit.
Read: Teachers' Day can't be Guru Utsav, say BJP's TN allies
The Left too came out against the move saying BJP was using subtle ways of promoting its Hindutva agenda.
Irani said her ministry had sent a representation to all states about the Guru Utsav essay contest.
States like West Bengal voiced dissent over the entire programme. The schedule of the PM’s speech — from 3 pm to 4.45 pm, well after regular school hours — has also come under attack from Congress and other parties.