In an attempt to douse controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned interaction with students on Teachers’ Day, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Monday clarified that the participation of students in the event would be “voluntary”.
“This particular activity is voluntary in nature. If it is being politicised, then I would say it is regrettable,” Irani said when asked about the objections raised by some states over the issue. She was speaking on the sidelines of an NCERT event.
“Education is in the concurrent list. Nothing can be done without the state’s consent. It has already been discussed with the state governments,” she later said at the BJP headquarters.
Modi is scheduled to interact with around 1,000 students at the Manekshaw Auditorium on September 5. The programme, which would see Modi taking questions via video conferencing facility, would be beamed live to over 18 lakh government and private schools in the country through Doordarshan and education channels.
Opposition-ruled states like West Bengal have opposed the exercise with its Education Minister Partha Chatterjee claiming they have little time to make the necessary arrangements for it.
Meanwhile, rejecting reports that the Centre was renaming Teachers’ Day as ‘Guru Utsav’, Irani clarified it was the name of an essay writing competition initiated by her Ministry and that September 5 would continue to be celebrated as ‘Teachers’ Day’.
“I don’t know how it all started. Those who are commenting either don’t know the facts or are doing it wilfully for political reasons,” she said. The Ministry has clarified there were no attempts to rename the day and the spot advertisements released by it on Monday refer to September 5 as “Teachers’ Day”.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.