The Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), a Delhi-based private research institute, on Saturday marked the 200th anniversary of Kerala’s “Magna Carta of education”, the rescript then 15-year-old Travancore regent, Uthrittathi Thirunal Gowri Parvathi Bayi, had issued on June 17, 1817. The rescript had pledged that the state “shall defray the entire cost of education of its people in order that there might be no backwardness in the spread of enlightenment among them’’. This was the first ever attempt in the world to provide state funding for education.
Travancore royal family’s Aswathy Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, who attended the event, expressed disappointment over the lack of interest regarding the anniversary in Kerala. “Delhi has remembered it. Maybe Travancore or Thiruvananthapuram will also remember it. I do not know.” She noted that there was no event taking place in Kerala to commemorate the rescript and called it “really sad’’.
Malayalam playwright Omchery N N Pillai, who was among the participants at the event, blamed “sheer ignorance of history” for the lack of any official commemoration of the occasion in Kerala. “…But for (ISS Chairman) George (Mathew) finding it out, nobody would have known. In Kerala nobody knows…,” he said. “I do not think it is intentional. It shows ignorance. The present government would have been happy to claim for themselves the credit of celebrating this, but for ignorance they ignored it. They came to know this only when George told them or something like that.”
Mathew sought to defend the Kerala government. “This programme is happening with the support of the Kerala government,’’ he said. “Kerala is sponsoring this. It was organised here only to get a national impact.’’
Earlier, Vice President Hamid Ansari, who was the chief guest at the event, lauded Kerala’s achievements in education. “Education played an important part in Kerala’s transition from a caste-ridden society into one of our more egalitarian states. The initiative was taken two centuries earlier and forms the backdrop to this conference,’’ he said. “As a result and over time, literacy rates in the state have historically been high since early 1900s. It paved the way for mass mobilisation for education and the creation of active citizenry that is a defining aspect of modern Kerala.”
Sources in Kerala education minister’s office told The Sunday Express that no official programme was held in the state to celebrate the proclamation.