The Centre’s move to celebrate Teacher’s Day as ‘Guru Utsav’ and the planned interaction of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi with school children on that day have kicked up a controversy with opposition Congress and others, including BJP allies MDMK and PMK, slamming the government.
However, HRD Minister Smriti Irani described the opposition as “regrettable” and made it clear that the students’ participation in the interaction is “voluntary”.
Congress leader Manish Tewari termed the renaming of the day merely a “packaging” exercise and said the government is trying to “change packaging and labelling and then tryign to pass them off as innovative initiatives”.
Two of BJP’s Tamil Nadu allies today joined DMK opposing naming Teacher’s Day as ‘Guru Utsav’, with PMK terming it as a discreet attempt to impose Sanskrit.
Leaders of PMK and MDMK, S Ramadoss and Vaiko, demanded that the Centre immediately withdraw the order to rename Teachers’ Day as ‘Guru Utsav.’
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DMK chief M Karunanidhi had already opposed the move, alleging that it was a conspiracy to downgrade Tamil language and society.
As the government’s decision came under attack, Irani met the media twice on the day to do damage-control.
She said government has not changed the name of the day celebrated as Teacher’s Day on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the late President S Radhakrishnan.
The Minister said it was an essay competition named ‘Guru Utsav’ to celebrate teacher’s contribution and “if anybody who has objection to the fact that teachers are to be revered is an objection that I regret”.
If the essay competition celebrating teachers is opposed, “what appals me that somebody who would not want teachers or the very foundation of our society to be revered and respected”, she told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to interact with students on September 5, coinciding with Teachers’ Day, Ramadoss however opposed the day being called as ‘Guru Utsav.’
“The Central government should realise that national integration will be strengthened only if the identities of various languages and cultures are promoted,” he said.
The HRD Minister also regretted opposition from some states to the PM’s speech to the students.
“This particular activity is voluntary in nature. If there is any controversy in this which is being politicised, I would say it is regrettable,” she told reporters when asked that some states were opposed to the Centre’s directive to all states to ensure the speech is heard by every student.
States like West Bengal have voiced dissent over entire exercise, with the state’s Education Minister Partha Chatterjee saying they have little time in making necessary arrangements for it.
The timing of the PM’s speech from 3 pm to 4.45 pm has also come under attack from parties like Congress.
“If the PM wants to share his pearls of wisdom with the children of the country , at least we could have was adjusted the speech timing to the school timings, rather than making students stay back after school and inconvenient them and their parents,” party leader Manish Tewari said.
Modi will give a pep-talk to about 1,000 selected students at the Manekshaw Auditorium here on September 5 and interact with them, taking some questions through a video conferencing facility.
The programme would be beamed live to over 18 lakh government and private schools in the country via all Doordarshan and education channels.
“We have made arrangements that this interaction can be transmitted is relayed through education transmission channels of all states, through the internet and is also recorded for those who want to see it later,” the HRD Minister said, adding this was the first time in history where the PM was directly interacting with students.
The Teacher’s Day celebration would be unique in nature where on one hand the President will be awarding best teachers and on the other hand the PM will directly engage with students, she said.