Two days after Muslim outfits strongly opposed the mandatory practice of yoga in schools, School Education and Sports Minister Vinod Tawde clears his stand on the issue. He says the International Yoga Day, which will be observed on June 21, a Sunday, will not be enforced on anybody, though the state may consider including yoga in school curriculum.
Muslims are against promoting yoga and Surya namaskar; they say it should never be mandatory, nor be included in school curriculum, because it’s against their religious belief. What is your take?
We are not enforcing yoga on anybody. Yoga is beneficial for everyone is this world, and I feel everyone should practise yoga. However, it is one’s choice… While deciding on celebrating yoga day, we considered benefits of all the schoolchildren and did not distinguish them based on their religion.
Some states like Madhya Pradesh are planning to include yoga in school curriculum. Is Maharashtra government planning any such thing?
Yes, we are seriously thinking on those lines. However, we want to first discuss this with yoga experts, academicians, school managements and officials of the school education department on how we can go about it. A few non-state boards already have yoga in their curriculum as an elective subject. We can also plan something on those lines in state board schools.
Schools want an option of celebrating the International Yoga Day on Monday, June 22, instead of Sunday, June 21, as directed by the government. Will that be allowed?
Yes, why not. The idea is not to make schools follow the government direction on celebrating yoga day on a particular date. The aim is to introduce yoga to many schoolchildren through the celebration. The yoga day celebration planning started six months ago. As June 21 was declared as International Yoga Day by UNESCO, we wanted a large number of schools and colleges to celebrate it on June 21. All those schools for whom it is not possible to celebrate yoga day on Sunday can definitely celebrate it the next day.
Why only yoga, and not any other physical activity/ exercise?
All the schools already have physical education in their curriculum, in which they not only teach various exercises but activities and games such as kho-kho and others. We thought in these competitive times where lifestyle of school students too has become busy and stressful, yoga would help and it is proven. Hence, we decided to introduce yoga through International Yoga Day.
Do you practise yoga?
Yes, I do practise yoga. Though I practise yoga three times a week, I make it a point that I do not miss it. Despite my busy schedule, I am very particular about my yoga schedule. When I am travelling and cannot practise yoga, I try performing breathing exercises at least. Everybody, according to me, should take a little time off their day’s schedule for yoga and meditation.