The Asian Age
HRD moves to defuse row as allies oppose
A day after the DMK and other political parties protested the Union government’s move to celebrate Teacher’s Day as “Guru Utsav”, HRD minister Smriti Irani on Monday rubbished it saying it was the name of an essay competition and wondered whether those criticising the move were doing it deliberately for political reasons. She also rejected the criticism that all students are being forced to listen to the Prime Minister’s speech on September 5 on the occasion of the Teacher’s Day saying their participation in the interaction is “voluntary”.
Ms Irani stressed that September 5 will continue to be celebrated as Teachers’ Day.
“This particular activity is voluntary in nature. If it is being politicised, then I would say it is regrettable… If the Prime Minister of a free India does not have the freedom to interact with students, then it is ridiculous,” she said.
On the “Guru Utsav”, which has met with opposition from parties like the DMK, NDA allies MDMK and PMK, Ms Irani said her ministry had sent a representation to all states about an essay competition under that title in their language. She claimed that over 1.3 lakh students have already taken part in the contest.
“I don’t know how it all started. Those who are commenting either don’t know the facts or are doing it wilfully for political reasons,” she said.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari termed the renaming of the day merely a “packaging” exercise and said the government is trying to “change packaging and labelling and then trying to pass them off as innovative initiatives”.
If the essay competition celebrating teachers is opposed, “what appals me that somebody who would not want teachers or the very foundation of our society to be revered and respected”, she told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
“This particular activity is voluntary in nature. If there is any controversy in this which is being politicised, I would say it is regrettable,” she told reporters when asked that some states were opposed to the Centre’s directive to all states to ensure every student hears the speech.
“It is an absolute celebration of diversity of India. Students can write about favourite teacher, the teacher who shaped their life. Smriti Irani also said that the HRD ministry is planning to celebrate ‘ Mother Tongue’ day. An opportunity is given to students to write in any language about their teachers,” she said.