HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who has been dogged by controversies, on Saturday said this was happening as she was a “straight-talker” who challenged the status-quo in education sector which was being used as a source of “profit” by some people.
Participating in a ‘talkathon’ with two other union ministers, Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman, Irani also rejected the charge of saffronisation of education and listed a number of initiatives by her to “empower” students and parents in decision-making, wondering if that was “saffronisation”.
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“I think if you challenge the status quo, then some people who are held accountable make some noises as they feel they are being challenged.
They realise that jobs cannot be gotten merely on the basis of recommendation and cannot use a government institution to further their interest but will have to work in the interest of the nation.
“When people, who had made the institutions a den and a medium of profit, see that a straight-talker has come and will insist on work…,” she said.
She was asked about a host of controversies dogging her ministry in the first year of the Modi government.
Rejecting the charge of saffronisation, she said she had already made a detailed statement in Parliament with full facts and wondered if steps like making books free online and involving students and parents as stake-holders in education amounted to saffronising it.
Goyal also congratulated Irani for “changing the discourse” on education by challenging “entrenched interest”
in the sector.
Irani noted that education was not confined to educational institutions but was linked with the country’s future, tradition and culture as she spoke about measures being taken by her in which a few people sitting in Delhi were not deciding the education policy of the country.
Talking about ‘Swayam’ portal initiative, India’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Irani said her ministry was working to ensure that educational resources reach every citizen and said some significant changes were expected in next six months.
“Government is determined to ensure that resources reach every citizen and now we hope that citizens step up and take charge,” she said.
“We are very soon going to fix learning outcomes of all classes. We have told schools to provide these to parents,”
she said, adding that the ministry will also put it on its website so that parents can understand what is the learning
outcome that is required.
She said ever since the NDA government has come to power, there has not only been cooperative federalism in education but also a direct communication with people to decide the national education policy.
Irani counted as one of her achievements involving people, village councils, districts and states in framing the national education policy which, she said, was earlier prepared by a select few in Delhi. “Now there is a transparent methodology.”
The HRD Minister also claimed that unlike the previous UPA government, there is now inter-ministerial coordination. “This has also the hallmark of the new government, coordination among various ministries is also an achievement along with the communication.”
She also said that one of the first mega projects, which was envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for her
ministry would be setting up of national e-library in which central universities, IITs, IIMs and NCERT will pool in their resources.
It would work in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture and also include data provided by the National Archives of
India, she said.
The ‘talkathon’ was part of government’s initiative to highlight its achievements during one year in office. This was the first time that three ministers took up people’s queries simultaneously during a talkathon session.