Minister of state in the human resource development (HRD) ministry Ram Shankar Katheria on Saturday denied that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government was trying to “saffronise” education in the country.
With a number of top institutes and schools of the country being affected by rules and appointments made by BJP-led governments, the HRD minister took the opportunity to clarify his government’s stand.
Responding to media queries on the uproar over Gajendra Singh’s appointed as the director of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Katheria said, “We never ask any school/institute to teach Bhagwat or Ramayan to students or forced any Madrassa to stop educating pupils there.”
He said it was the Opposition that was trying to create smoke without fire. “It is the Congress’ mentality and they did not like change in the system. Whenever we make any change, they start alleging that we are saffronising education in the country.”
Regarding the controversial decision of the BJP-led Maharashtra government to declare Madrassas not teaching primary subjects such as English, mathematics and science “non-schools,” Katheria questioned what was wrong with Madrassas teaching those subjects to students.
“To get another (Dr APJ Abdul) Kalam, it is very necessary to impart science education to the kids studying at Madrassas,” he said.
Another contentious issue on hand was the HRD ministry’s draft bill allegedly diminishing the autonomy of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). In this regard, the BJP MP from Agra said, “We are not interfering in the institution’s (functioning). We’d like to encourage them. We don’t want to weaken the system, but we will not allow people to go as per their whims and fancies.”
Katheria also took the opportunity to defend HRD minister Smriti Irani against offensive remarks made by Congress general secretary Gurudas Kamat. He said, “There is nothing wrong in doing work. But the place and post where she currently has, she is delivering her duty exceptionally well.”
Kamat had received severe flak for referring to Irani as “poncha lagane waali (cleaning woman)” while questioning the minister’s credentials to hold such an important portfolio. The National Commission for Women too had taken a strong exception to his comment and sent a notice in this regard.
Katheria was in the city to address students during the maiden “Diksha” ceremony (invocation ceremony) for law students at Prestige Institute of Management, Indore on Saturday.