Amid a hue and cry over allegations that Marx and Engels were being forced out of textbooks in Bengal,the Centre has scrapped the plan to set up a National Textbook Council.
The council,first proposed when Arjun Singh was at the helm of the HRD Ministry in the UPA I regime,was envisaged as an independent,fully autonomous body to protect school textbooks from the politics of saffronisation and de-safforanisation,and provide citizens a forum to register complaints regarding textbooks and redress them.
Singh,however,could not get the National Textbook Council Bill through Parliament. His successor,Kapil Sibal,fared no better,not least because of the strong opposition from states,particularly Narendra Modis Gujarat and Mamta Banerjees Bengal.
Modis government felt creation of textbooks is the prerogative of the state government which has a better idea of its people and history and creation of such a national council is likely to be led by value judgments of a few people and is therefore likely to become a sore point in Centre-state relations:.
Bengal suggested that it would be better to strengthen the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) and its state counterparts rather than create a new body,whose constitution,it claimed,did not give proper representation to states. Bengal also argued that states should be trusted to keep political colours off the pages of textbooks.
Several other state governments also suggested a range of changes in the nature of the Bill.
At the Centre too,besides the ministries of Home and Minority Affairs,the plan didnt have many supporters.
The Department of Expenditure said the proposed councils mandate overlapped with that of NCERT,SCERTs,National Institute of Education and Regional Institute of Education and that the government must place faith in the integrity and ability of these institutions to keep a vigil over textbooks. It also pointed out that education was a subject in the concurrent list and,therefore,states too had the responsibility to screen and monitor content of textbooks.
The Planning Commission said that the issue had not been studied enough,and adequate consultation not done,to establish the inadequacies of the existing legislation to deal with violations included in the NTC Bill and that held.
The HRD Ministry would move the Central Advisory Board of Education,the apex body on education,on 23rd April,to drop the Bill.