The HRD Ministry is opposed to the idea of merging its councils of historical and philosophical research with the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), as suggested by a review undertaken by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the NITI Aayog.
Not convinced about the dividends such an exercise would yield, the Prakash Javadekar-led ministry, at a meeting held recently, decided to communicate its reservations on the proposal to the PMO and NITI Aayog.
According to sources, the ministry believes that the mandate of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) and ICSSR is different and their merger might dilute the specific purpose for which each of the autonomous organisations was originally established.
The ministry is also opposed to the NITI Aayog’s alternative suggestion to merge the ICHR and ICPR with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the same ground.
The ICHR was set up in 1972 with the objective of promoting and coordinating research in history and also “to give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational presentation and interpretation of history”.
In 1977, the Union government decided to set up an exclusive body on the discipline of philosophy, on the lines of the ICHR. The ICPR was thus established with the aim of preserving “India’s profound, long and living philosophical tradition”. Over the years, the three councils — ICSSR, ICPR and ICHR — have served as a battleground for left- and right-wing ideologies.
Asked about the NITI Aayog’s suggestion, former ICHR chairman Y S Rao, who retired last month, said, “I came to know of this proposal only through media reports. I have no information about the details of the scheme. So I have no comments.”
As first reported by The Indian Express on June 14, the merger of the ICHR and ICPR with the ICSSR was suggested as part of the review of the 114 autonomous bodies under seven ministries or departments, undertaken by the NITI Aayog and PMO.
Out of 114, 42 — almost one-third — were listed for “reduction”, by either winding them up entirely, merging them with other entities, reorganising them under a common umbrella, or corporatising them.
For instance, the review recommended that the Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT) be merged with the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysuru. This has snowballed into a controversy in Tamil Nadu, with the recommendation seen as the Centre’s attempt to assert its supremacy on Tamil identity. The state Assembly has taken up the matter and the Opposition has demanded a resolution against any attempt at merger.
The HRD Ministry will also be apprising the NITI Aayog of the sensitivities involved in merging or winding up autonomous bodies established to promote languages.