MPs unite to ban cartoons,scrap 1 lakh textbooks

HRD: Another textbook withdrawn; 6-member panel set up for whitewash.

Written by Anubhuti Vishnoi | New Delhi | Published:May 14, 2012 12:30 am

After banning a 1949 cartoon by legendary satirist Shankar from an NCERT political science textbook for Class XI,the Government today announced the removal of cartoons of politicians from another NCERT text (Democratic Politics – 1) this one for Class IX after MPs said these “poisoned” the student mind.

“I am of the view that large number of depictions in these cartoons are offensive and are inappropriate for textbooks. The government has also resolved to conduct an inquiry into the role of the officials of NCERT who approved the inclusion of the offending material in the textbook in political science of Classes IX-XII and fix responsibility,” HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said after MPs across party lines,except one from the National Conference,came down heavily against the cartoons in the NCERT textbooks.

The HRD Ministry set up a six-member committee to subject textbooks to close scrutiny and also replace “inappropriate” material in texts before the academic session resumes after the summer vacation.

To be chaired by S K Thorat,Chairman Indian Council of Social Science Research,this committee has been asked to review Class IX to XII Social Science and Political Science textbooks of NCERT “from point of view of identifying educationally inappropriate material in them.”

In the House,the issue was brought to the notice of the Lok Sabha by Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal,who got across-the-board support from: Sanjay Nirupam (Congress),Yashwant Sinha (BJP),Sharad Yadav (JDU),Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP),Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) and Lalu Prasad (RJD) among others.

Except S D Shariq of National Conference,MP after MP came down heavily against the cartoons claiming these “denigrated” politicians,“poisoning” young minds and “endangering” democracy in the country.

While a visibly upset Badal circulated copies of the cartoons to MPs,the tone was set by Congress president Sonia Gandhi,who was seen expressing her displeasure over them after Harsimrat handed a copy to her as well just ahead of the assembling of the House.

Sonia,in fact,was seen giving directions,first to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal,to send a clear signal against these kind of textbooks and later to Pranab Mukherjee,who sought to intervene when members from other parties sought to raise it at the start of question hour.

“All objectionable material,if it is necessary whole book,will be withdrawn . Responsibility will also be fixed,” Mukherjee asserted to pacify members at the start of the Question Hour that facilitated the smooth proceedings.

“These textbooks are poisoning the young impressionistic minds. Just removing these cartoons from the textbooks will not be enough. Responsibility must be fixed and strict action must be taken in a time-bound manner,” Harsimrat said raising the issue again during the Zero Hour.

Taking a cue from Sonia Gandhi,Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam intervened to demand an inquiry against those behind the incorporation of “bad tatse” of cartoons in textbooks.

“Whether these so called scholars (preparing the textbooks) are part of the conspiracy to defame the political class in this country,” Nirupam asked the government. Nirupam was later seen confabulating with Sonia Gandhi.

“These are the collections of worst cartoons of politicians. And these books are going to mould the minds (of students) to hate politicians,politics and endanger democracy,” BJP leader Yashwant Sinha lamented against these “canards against politics in a systematic manner” while Sonia Gandhi thumped her desks in appreciation of Sinha.

The BJP leader also demanded resignation of HRD minister Kapil Sibal. CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta even alleged these cartoons in NCERT textbooks as part of a design to further “totalitarianism” and fueled “sab chor hai” sentiment across the country.

National Conference MP,SD Shariq,was the lone MP who broke ranks from the MPs across the party line and urged the politicians for “introspection” saying,“We have ourselves given cartoonists the chance to make cartoons on us. Instead of criticising the cartoons,we should do some introspection. It is a reflection of what we have done and a reaction to it,” Sarifuddin Shariq said amid protests from other MPs.

“Is it not a reality that when one becomes an MP or an MLA for the second time,they become richer? Their assets (submitted to Election Commission before elections) show considerable increase?” Shariq said amid protests from other members.

Replying to this impromptu debate in the Lok Sabha,Sibal said that the government “fully appreciates the sensitivities” and will ensure that only “educationally appropriate material are included in textbooks.”

The Thorat committee has also been asked to provide suggestions for “alternatives” to replace this inappropriate material in the textbooks. The terms of reference of the committee specify that these alternatives should be such that it can be used “immediately” in the textbooks and made available to learners concerned. The committee,in fact,has been given only a month’s time not only to complete its scrutiny of textbooks but also come up with “appropriate” alternatives.

This committee has been set up today through a notification by the National Council for Education research & Training (NCERT) today. On board are Patricia Mukhim,Editor,Shillong Times; social science researcher M S S Pandian; Amarjit S Narang,a professor of political science in the Indira Gandhi National Open University for over three decades; Abha Malik,a senior social science teacher at Sanskriti School; M S S Pandian from the Madras Institute of Development Studies. Saroj Yadav. Head of the Department of Education,NCERT has been appointed as Convener of this committee. Thorat,who is Chairman,of the committee is a scholar in Dalit studies and also headed the Institute of Dalit Studies earlier.

NCERT,meanwhile,has begun the process of withdrawing these textbooks from distributors. Several NCERT texts are online as well and they are also being pulled off the website. It is estimated that over 1 lakh textbooks will be withdrawn as part of this drive.

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