The decision of the Haryana government to pull away 91 school teachers from their duties to act as pujaris in temples in Bilaspur during the Kapal Mochan Mela in Haryana from October 30 onwards is a blatant violation of the constitution of India. Article 25 of the Indian constitution states, “The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion only and that the State shall have no religion of its own and all persons shall be equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”. Providing the service of priests to the temples is not the responsibility of the state according to the constitution of India. The decision of the Manohar Lal Khattar government to use the teachers as priests is a clear case of favouritism, spending tax payers’ money to promote a particular religion.
Manohar Lal Khattar government appears to have forgotten its constitutional duties and is focusing on the implementation of a divisive ideology. Being a hard core RSS member, his bosses expect him to implement the strategies of the Sangh Parivar rather than working for the well-being of the people of Haryana. Manohar Lal Khattar has proved that he is more concerned about the implementation of the ideology of the Sangh Parivar than good governance which Narendra Modi had promised at the time of election in 2014. A year ago he had made a controversial statement, "Muslims can continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating beef as the cow is an article of faith here". One of the failures of the BJP government at the centre and in the states has been appointing RSS men at important administrative and constitutional positions without considering their competence to fulfil the responsibilities attached to the offices to which they are appointed. PM Modi realized very late the damage caused by the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India and recently he was replaced by Anupam Kher. The PM will be learning more in the days to come.
The Manohar Lal Khattar government has failed in respect of maintaining law and order and thereby protecting the life and property of the people, which is a primary constitutional duty of an elected government. The handling of agitation by the Jats for reservation and the violent protests by the followers of the self-proclaimed god man, Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh are the two classical examples. “At least 20 people died and over 200 were injured as Jats went on a frenzy of destruction in mid-February to demand reservations in government jobs for their community. Over about 10 days, buildings and vehicles were torched, and railway routes and highways blockaded around Haryana and particularly in Jhajjar and Rohtak. Some estimates put the loss to the state at Rs 20,000 crore”. (Scroll.in, March 01, 2016) According to the NDTV report on Sept. 17, 2017 a t least 40 people were killed, over 200 injured and property worth crores was destroyed in the violence that broke out in parts of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan aftermath of the arrest of Gurmith Ram Rahim Singh.
Saffronization of education has been one of the priorities of the BJP government at the centre and in the states. The present BJP government of Haryana pursued this task in right earnest after the Manohar Lal Khattar government came to power.
Teachers are appointed to teach in the schools and not to perform the duties of a priest. The teachers association protested against the decision of the government. State advisor to the Haryana Teachers Association Jaidev Arya called the order a "Tuqhlaki farman" (diktat). "It is not a teacher's job to work as priest," he said. Wazir Singh, president of the Adhyapak Sangh, said, “We live in a secular country. Teachers should not be assigned duties of religious matters of a particular religion because similar demands to assign duties to teachers for religious functions of other religions will also be raised.”
Congress leader Geeta Bhukkal, who was Haryana Education Minister from 2009 to October 2014, reacted to the decision of the government saying, “This is just an attempt at saffronisation of education. Teachers are already overburdened with activities like Yoga Day, sanitation campaign, Beti Bachao campaign, marathon race, arranging radios for students so that they can listen to Prime Minister’s ‘ Mann Ki Baat’. Haryana already faces a shortage of teachers”.
The educational standard of the government schools in Haryana is poor in comparison with many other states in India. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, only one out of four of Class III students enrolled in government schools in the state can read a Class II text in Hindi and only 27.7 per cent of them can do basic subtraction. According to an ASSOCHAM report released last month, Haryana has 30,000 teacher vacancies and over 800 schools are functioning without principals. Even among the teachers present in government schools, absenteeism continues to be a menace, as does the low quality of teaching. This is reflected in the poorer learning outcomes revealed by ASER. Against this backdrop assigning teachers to perform the functions of priests reflects not only irresponsibility but also callousness of the state government.
Education has not been a priority for the political class in India. The manifestos of the political parties do not include any serious policy initiative for educational reform. In 1964 the Kothari Commission had recommended setting apart 6% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for education. But the governments that ruled the country, including the BJP, failed to increase the allocation for education. A paper presented at ‘Right to Education Forum Consultation’, jointly prepared by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and CRY for the RTE Forum, says, “After the implementation of RTE in 2010, the school education expenditure has increased just by 0.2% (from 2.5% percent of GDP in 2009-10 to 2.7% of GDP in 2015-16).” The paper also says, “The overall allocation for education could be lesser for 2017-18 as the share of Union Government has decreased from 0.8 percent in 2013-14 to 0.47 percent of GDP in 2017-18.” In spite of putting in place the Right to Education Act there has not been any significant improvement in the quality of school education in India.
Along with increasing the allocation for education, the goal of education is to be made clear so that the governments that come to power from time to time may not misuse education to brainwash the children in accordance with their ideology. In this context the definition of education given by Swami Vivekananda is pertinent. “We want an education which builds character, increases strength of mind, expands intellect and equips a person to stand on his own feet”. Character formation, increasing the mental strength and expanding intellect are the goals of education according to Swami Vivekananda. Expansion of intellect means instilling scientific temper in the students so that they will be able to distinguish between right and wrong and make right choices in life. Those who have developed intellect will not be brainwashed by others and they will not blindly follow anyone. They will be developing critical thinking and will be questioning the blind faith and superstitious practices.
Although the RSS-BJP combine is trying to hijack Swami Vivekananda into Hindutva pantheons, it has not accepted his approach to pluralism. He believed in the acceptance, appreciation and celebration of differences. The following quotes from Swami Vivekananda testify that he had an inclusive approach.
"I accept all the religions that were in the past, and worship them all; I worship God with every one of them, in whatever form they worship Him. I shall go to the mosque of Mohammedan, I shall enter the Christians Church and kneel before the crucifix; I shall enter the Buddhist temple, where I shall take refuge in Buddha and in his law. I shall go into the forest and sit down in meditation with the Hindu, who is trying to find the light which enlightens the heart of every one." “As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God”. “Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.”
The attempts of the BJP government in Haryana to saffronize education and deploy teachers as poojaris are against the word and spirit of the Indian constitution and the universal spirit of Hinduism. Instead of promoting ideology, religion and politics, the state government should focus on improving the quality of education by training the teachers and monitoring the functioning of the schools.
firstname.lastname@example.org(Published on 13th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 46)