After doing away with references to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and several other other freedom fighters from school History curriculum, the Rajasthan government’s revised syllabus has also removed a page highlighting the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
A prominent section on page 105, which was part of chapter 12 of the previous Social Science textbook for Class VIII in state schools, has now been removed in the “restructured” book. The section highlighted the RTI Act, and the people’s movement that led to it.
The Indian Express had first reported about the state’s textbook restructuring process erasing references to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The RTI Act was the result of a nationwide movement led, among others, by Aruna Roy and Nikhil De of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). Significantly, people of Rajasthan had played a large role in the RTI movement.
Roy and De, along with other members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), the organisation they lead, have written to the Rajasthan chief secretary and will soon write to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje demanding an “immediate” halt to such changes.
“Removing a chapter on an Act — a movement which is a matter of pride for the entire nation — appears to have been done with malafide intentions,” according to a statement issued by MKSS said. “While the RTI movement and Act are being included in curricula across the world, it has been removed from the textbooks of Rajasthan…. The poor and deprived people of Rajasthan played a major part in the RTI struggle.”
According to the organisation, besides the RTI Act, “important historical events of the state and nation” have also been removed, “which is very serious”.
The changes, the MKSS statement claimed, were brought about due to “political reasons” and without consulting any group or organisation in the state. “The government wants to remove certain parts of history altogether so that future generations can have no knowledge of them,” it said.
Taking the attack to the BJP government on the issue, state Congress vice-president Archana Sharma said, “While it is condemnable, it is hardly surprising coming from this government. The RTI Act was brought by the UPA government (in 2005) to empower people and bring about transparency. The BJP, in Rajasthan as well as at Centre, does not believe in ensuring transparency and wants to block people’s right to get information.”
Playing down the changes, BJP spokesperson Anand Sharma said, “Commenting on each and every book is not appropriate. The entire syllabus has not come out yet. If the chapter has been removed, it will be added next year. But anything conclusive can be said only after all the new textbooks are out.”
MKSS has, meanwhile, filed an RTI application at the Education Department, seeking details of the procedure adopted and the expenditure incurred for the exercise to restructure school syllabus.