The Thorat committee that reviewed NCERT textbooks has not only recommended the deletion of 21 cartoons but also laid out criteria for what kind of cartoons the textbooks should have. It has suggested among various things that the cartoons should largely stick to conveying a positive message to students,focus on themes rather than personalities,and be first tested on students for their reactions to ensure they are not insensitive.
The committee has said that instead of borrowing cartoons from newspapers and other secondary sources,original ones must be created strictly for educational purposes. Most cartoons used in political science textbooks now have been borrowed from R K Laxman and Shankars work in newspapers.
Stressing the need for a positive message,the panel has recommended that if a cartoon with a negative implication has to be necessarily used,it must be balanced with a positive-message cartoon on the same subject.
The recommendation against focus on personalities follows the offence taken by MPs at cartoons on Indira Gandhi,Rajiv Gandhi,Jawaharlal Nehru and a range of other political leaders from A B Vajpayee to Lal Bahadur Shastri and B R Ambedkar. The committee has recommended that the cartoons instead look at broad themes and issues.
Sources in the NCERT said the report suggests cartoons in textbooks must first be tested on students and their reactions assessed to ensure that there are no unintended consequences. Sensitivities must especially be kept in mind as responses to cartoons may differ depending on a students profile,his background,religion,class,caste and habitation,it has said. The committee has also advised against overuse of cartoons.
Besides cartoons,the committee has also made a range of recommendations on the textual content of NCERT textbooks. The committee has pointed out that chapters on world politics have not factored in recent changes in Sri Lanka,relations with Iraq and so on. It has also suggested that foreign examples and illustrations be replaced with Indian ones so students can relate better to them. Factual errors too have been noted. The committee has recommended a review of the books as a long-term measure. The Parliamentary Forum on Children,too,had pointed out 50 instances of factual errors or inappropriate information in textbooks.
MPs across parties had last month attacked NCERT textbooks and demanded that offensive cartoons be pulled out as they denigrated politicians,poisoned young minds and endangered democracy. The uproar,initially over a cartoon of Ambedkar,snowballed when MPs took offence to some 50 cartoons that apparently showed politicians in a negative light and targeted leaders such as Indira and Nehru.
Following the uproar,the HRD Ministry set up the six-member committee,headed by Prof S K Thorat (chairman,ICSSR),to review the social science and political science textbooks for classes IX to XII from point of view of identifying educationally inappropriate material in them.