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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

In second letter to PM Modi, Mamata says ‘universities must enjoy freedom’

The West Bengal chief minister questioned if “it is not an attempt of the central government to introduce thought policing in educational institutions by trying to impose 'One Nation, One Thought?"

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
Updated: February 25, 2021 6:56:29 pm
Mamata Banerjee protesting against the Centre's fuel price hike on Thursday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Calling the Ministry of Education’s revised guidelines that stipulated state-aided universities to get prior political clearances for holding online conferences or seminars with “international” participation as an attempt centralise the higher education system in the country, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately withdraw the memorandum.

The Centre on Wednesday, however, withdrew the November 2020 order following objections raised by scientists and academics.

In a letter to the Prime Minister on Thursday, Mamata Banerjee wrote: “Our universities must enjoy the highest possible degree of self-governance and freedom to conduct their educational activities in regular interaction with their counterparts abroad. Knowledge is neither created by nor belongs to any single country or community. Reasonable regulations and restrictions are understandable. However, the restrictions imposed vide the office memorandum further highlights the intention of the Government of India towards centralisation of the higher education system in our country.”

“In other words, is it not an attempt of the Central Government to introduce thought-policing in educational institutions by trying to impose ‘One Nation, One Thought’?” she wrote.

Alleging that state governments were not consulted before the Ministry of Education issued the guidelines, the Chief Minister wrote that education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution and any non-consultation by the Government of India with the state governments, before issuing any such instructions to the educational institutions, will be “against the spirit of the federal structure enshrined in the Indian Constitution”.

“Such communication will only be seen as an example of the contempt of constitutional powers of the states. It may be pertinent to mention here that state governments are duly empowered under law to deal with any act committed by any educational institution which violates any law or is contrary to the interest of national security,” Banerjee wrote, adding that the Ministry of Education should consult the state governments before issuing any such orders in the future.

A new order issued by the Ministry of External Affairs stated that rules that existed prior to the pandemic would continue to be applicable to these events. In view of the easing of restrictions on travel and assembly of people by the government of India, and state governments, guidelines issued… (on) November 25 regarding political clearance for international conferences/seminars/training etc due to the Covid19 pandemic are no longer applicable.”

This was the second letter by Mamata Banerjee to PM Modi in as many days. On Wednesday, she in a letter to the PM, sought more Covid vaccines for West Bengal ahead of the Assembly polls in the state.

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