NCERT rejects Yogendra Yadav, Suhas Palshikar request to drop names as chief advisers

Jun 11, 2023 01:46 AM IST

Yadav and Palshikar were chief advisers for the political science books for classes 9 to 12 published in 2006-07

A day after Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar asked the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to remove their names as advisers from its political science textbooks, saying that they have been mutilated beyond recognition, the council said it has the right to make changes based on copyright ownership and asserted that the “withdrawal of association by any one member is out of the question”.

Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar issued a fresh statement on the NCERT row.
Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar issued a fresh statement on the NCERT row.

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The two, however, reiterated their demand on Saturday, saying that their names in textbooks “that were once the source of pride for us, are now a source of embarrassment”.

Yadav and Palshikar, who were chief advisers for the political science books for classes 9 to 12 published in 2006-07 on the basis of the 2005 version of the National Curriculum Framework, on Thursday wrote to NCERT director Dinesh Prasad Saklani that the rationalization process carried out by the council has “mutilated” textbooks “beyond recognition” and rendered them “academically dysfunctional”.

“While the modifications have been justified on grounds of rationalization, we fail to see any pedagogical rationale at work here. We find that the text has been mutilated beyond recognition. There are innumerable and irrational cuts, and large deletions often without any attempt to fill the gaps thus created. We were never consulted or even informed of these changes,” they said. “If NCERT did consult other experts for deciding on these cuts and deletions, we explicitly state that we fully disagree with them in this regard.”

Their letter to NCERT came amid a controversy over the removal of several topics from the high school syllabus in 2022, including passages on the theory of evolution, references to the Cold War, the Mughal courts, the industrial revolution, the 2002 Gujarat riots, the contribution of agriculture to the Indian economy, and a section on challenges to democracy.

NCERT had constituted textbook development committees (of which Yadav and Palshikar were members) during 2005-08 and they existed only till the textbooks were developed, the council said in a statement issued late on Friday night.

“After the textbooks were published by the NCERT, their copyright remained vested with the NCERT independent of the textbook development committee,” it said. “All members of the textbook development committees had given their concurrence on this through written undertakings.”

Responding to the council’s statement, Yadav and Palshikar on Saturday said continuation of their names inside the current version of the textbook creates a false impression of endorsement, and they have every right to dissociate with this insinuation. “If they can use their legal right to distort and mutilate the text, we must be able to exercise our moral and legal right to dissociate our name from a textbook that we do not endorse,” they said in a statement.

The role of members of the committees as chief advisers, advisers, members and member coordinate were limited to advising how to design and develop the textbooks or contributing to the development of their contents and “not beyond this,” the council asserted.

“However, NCERT acknowledges their academic contribution and only because of this, for the sake of record, publishes names of all textbook development committee members in each of its textbooks,” it said. “Therefore, at no stage is individual authorship claimed, hence the withdrawal of association by any one member is out of the question.”

Yadav and Palshikar demanded that the NCERT should publish the names of experts who suggested the changes. “The NCERT cannot hide behind our names as Chief advisers. Hence, we reiterate our limited demand to the NCERT: please remove our names from the textbooks that were once the source of pride for us but are now a source of embarrassment.”

The council further clarified that as the copyright owner of all its textbooks, it adopts clear procedures to make corrections and changes from time to time depending on “feedback received from their users (teachers, students, etc.)” or identification of “factual inaccuracies”, and “incompatible expressions”.

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Among the other topics removed from the political science textbooks are the position of Hindu extremists on Mahatma Gandhi’s pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity, and the ban on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after his assassination.

The NCERT last year said that several factors such as “overlapping” topics, topics “not relevant or outdated in the present context”, or topics that were “difficult” or “easily accessible to children and can be learned through self-learning or peer-learning,” were taken into account during the rationalisation process.

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    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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