The state government has asked all secondary and senior secondary schools to buy a collection of essays and speeches by Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Deendayal Upadhyaya, drawing allegations of “saffronisation” from the opposition Congress.
The Bharatiya Jan Santh was the erstwhile avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which currently holds the reins of power in Rajasthan.
A February 27 circular sent out by the state secondary education directorate instructed district education officials to buy copies of the ‘Deendayal Upadhyay Sampoorna Vangmay’ from Delhi-based publication Prabhat Prakashan on the occasion of his birth centenary.
The circular asked the officials to draw from the school development fund – meant to be utilised for local needs – to make the purchase. However, some schools had already utilised the money before the document reached them.
The book, edited by former state BJP president Mahesh Chandra Sharma, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan on October 9 last year. Though the 6,000-page book is priced at Rs 6,000, the circular said it will be offered to schools at a discounted price of Rs 4,000.
According to the ‘Secondary Education in India: Progress towards Universalisation’ report prepared by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, Rajasthan had 28,195 secondary and 16,958 senior secondary schools as of September 30, 2015.
Barmer additional district education officer Malaram Choudhary said the circular – which he received on Tuesday – mandated the purchase of 15 copies for school libraries. “We will soon issue the required directions to secondary and senior secondary schools,” he added.
The Congress, for its part, charged the government with pushing its saffron agenda through school curricula. “On one hand, they remove chapters on former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and on the other, they promote their ideology and take decisions that will benefit their leaders economically,” said state Congress vice president Archana Sharma. She alleged that the royalty for the books sold will go directly to Sharma, a BJP leader with RSS credentials.
However, making schools buy the book may be easier said than done. Rajan Sharma, the principal of a government secondary school in Chuli, said his institution’s development fund of Rs 10,000 has already been spent. “We don’t have any money left to buy the book,” he said, adding that he will seek a special allocation from the department in this regard. Many other school principals contacted by HT raised similar concerns.
An education department official said the school development fund is sourced from fees paid by students once a year. The amount, decided by the school development and management committee, is usually in the range of Rs 50 and Rs 200 per student. Most schools have fewer than 300 students.
The institutions use this fund to pay water and electricity bills, maintain sanitation facilities and stock their libraries and laboratories.
Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani said he was unaware of the context of the order.
This is not the first time the BJP government has entered into a controversy over the Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder. On September 25, 2015, it had organised blood donation camps to mark Upadhyay’s birth anniversary celebrations despite the ongoing Eid celebrations – a decision that drew criticism from the minorities as well as opposition parties.