State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee on Friday said that educational institutions in West Bengal will not observe Surgical Strike Day on September 29, as directed by University Grants Commission (UGC).
Criticising the Centre’s move, the minister said, “This is an agenda of the BJP and it is trying to push this agenda by using UGC, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is a matter of shame that they are using UGC to spread their political agenda. We would have understood if it had asked us to observe the day to honour sacrifices made by our soldiers. We have full respect for our soldiers and their sacrifices.”
Coming under criticism over the UGC circular, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar Friday said that it was just an advisory and that nothing was made mandatory.
“The allegations are ridiculous and false because we have not made any compulsions, neither to the institutions nor to the students. We have issued a programme because there was a suggestion from many students and teachers that we need to commemorate second anniversary of the surgical strike. Therefore on 29th of September we have asked the colleges, those who want to do, can arrange a lecture and the lecture by an ex-Army officer who can describe to the students how the country gets defended,” Javadekar said.
“This information needs to reach students, it’s not political,” he said.
In a letter to vice-chancellors on Wednesday, the UGC suggested that institutions ask students to “pledge their support” to the armed forces through letters and cards, which the government will use for publicity.
“All the NCC units will have special parade on that day. That is also good. Where is the politics in it? This is patriotism,” Javadekar said. “We never mandate anything, we just suggested. We don’t make anything compulsory,” he added.
Asked why the government did not observe the first anniversary and chose to do so in the second year just ahead of the elections in key states, Javadekar said, “Every time is good for noble acts.”
The state education minister also slammed the central government for trying to malign the image of the Indian Army. “The Indian Army has always been above politics and controversies. But now we are witnessing that the BJP is trying to malign its image and politicise the Indian Army. This is not right and we won’t support it,” he said.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, “This is nothing new as we had seen earlier how West Bengal government opposed directions by the UGC. We are not surprised at all.”
Earlier, the state government had criticised Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi for witting a letter to vice-chancellors of state universities advising them to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21. The state government had defied Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and UGC circular on the same issue and had asked state-run schools not to observe International Yoga Day. The state education department had organised a separate yoga competition among state-run schools later.
In September last year, the state government had refused to follow MHRD guidelines on how to celebrate Teacher’s Day in state-run schools.