THE CHHATTISGARH government has directed all government schools in the state to put up photographs of the President, Prime Minister and Chief Minister by June 30. The order, dated May 4, says the directive has been issued to build “a better environment for education”.
The order, addressed to all 27 district education officers in the state and signed by Education Secretary Vikas Sheel, first reiterates a previous government order asking all government schools to put up photographs and brief introductions of teachers under the heading, “Our respected teachers”, and asks for this to be completed by June 30.
“Photographs of the Honourable President, Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable Chief Minister should also be put up. For this the ‘Pathya Pustak Nigam’ will acquire photographs from the ‘Jansampark’ department, and then be made available to the districts. It will be the responsibility of the district education officers that the photographs be (put) in place by June 30,” adds the order.
The government has also asked all primary schools to install mirrors, “42 x 18” inches in size, at an appropriate place and keep a comb and a nail-cutter in their premises, “so that children, upon coming to school, can assess for themselves whether they have come to school in a clean and disciplined manner”.
“The benefits of the use of the mirror such as staying clean and its positive effect on health can be given in the assemblies. This too must be completed by June 30,” says the two-page letter, adding that the work must be completed in a time-bound manner, or district education officials will be held responsible.
Criticising the order, the opposition parties said the move has “political benefits at its heart”. “This is a complete waste of public money for personal benefit. If there have to be photographs of anyone at all, it should be of people who have inspired education, and not political leaders who may or may not be here beyond their terms. Politics must certainly be kept away from schools, and the children who study in them,” said T S Singhdeo, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and senior Congress leader.
“Firstly, it is very clear that this is being done because Assembly elections will be held in the state in about 16 months. Secondly, this has to be seen in the larger context of the RSS and the BJP attempting to influence education and history. We are protesting against this decision,” said Amit Jogi, senior leader of the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress.
Denying the charges, Education Secretary Vikas Sheel said the order had no “extraneous motives at all”.
“This is simply to raise awareness in schools. Who is the President, Prime Minister and Chief Minister is ordinarily taught in all schools. There used to be a time when children, if asked the name of the Prime Minister, would say ‘Indira Gandhi’. That is all we want to change.”
“The photographs will not say that they are from the BJP, or are MPs or MLAs. If there was a Congress Chief Minister and BJP Prime Minister, or vice versa, or both were from other parties, their photographs would still be put up. If the motive was political, why would the photograph of the President also be asked for,” said Sheel.
Meanwhile, officials said they would wait for a while before putting up photographs of the President, as the presidential election is due soon.