Sibal favours review of all Political Science textbooks, feels "a number of cartoons are inappropriate"
The Union government will order an inquiry into the role of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) officials in including the “offending” material in the political science textbook of Classes IX-XII and fix responsibility. It will also put in place a suitable mechanism to ensure that such instances did not recur.
This was announced on Monday by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal in the Lok Sabha after members expressed concern over inclusion of such material in school textbooks. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Telugu Desam Party even demanded Mr. Sibal's resignation over the issue.
The House saw an hour-long discussion on the issue during zero hour, with members suggesting that the impressionable minds of children were being “poisoned” by such cartoons. They alleged that an all-out conspiracy was on to project politicians in poor light, be it by the media or Bollywood.
Responding to the issues raised by members, Mr. Sibal said that in early April, the Ministry received information about an “offending” cartoon on page 18 of an NCERT textbook on Political Science of Class XI relating to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar with reference to the making of the Constitution.
He had sought an explanation from the NCERT, which in turn sought response from chief advisers of the Textbook Development Committee Suhas Palshikar and Yogendra Yadav. They responded with an elaborate explanation. “In light of the content and the explanation on record by Mr. Palshikar and Mr. Yadav, I directed that the offending cartoon be withdrawn from the NCERT textbook of Political Science of Class XI,” he said. Both have since resigned.
Mr. Sibal said that in early May he called for the textbooks relating to Political Science for Classes IX and XI and perused the contents, including the cartoons. “I found that a number of cartoons were inappropriate. I came to the opinion that a review of all textbooks of Political Science as well as a general review of all books of NCERT should be undertaken. I am of the view that a large number of depictions in these cartoons are offensive and inappropriate for textbooks,” he said.
On May 11, Mr. Sibal requested the NCERT Director to withhold further distribution of the textbooks and the latter informed the Ministry that all wholesalers who received copies of the books would be asked not to distribute them.
He said the textbooks were developed between 2005 and 2007 by Textbook Development Committees constituted by the NCERT and chaired by experts in the areas concerned. The textbooks were also approved by the National Monitoring Committee chaired by Mrinal Miri and G.P. Deshpande.
Mr. Sibal said:
“This government fully appreciates the sensitivities involved and the concerns expressed by members of this House to the nature of these cartoons and their inappropriateness in textbooks.
“The government fully appreciates these concerns and will take effective steps to ensure that henceforth textbooks take into account the sensibilities of individuals and communities.”
Raising the issue, Harsimrat Kaur Badal (SAD) said she was shocked to hear during a visit to a school that out of the 100-odd children she interacted with, none wanted to join politics. While seeking the reasons, she said that she came to know of the textbook in which cartoons denigrating politicians were incorporated.
Sanjay Nirupam (Congress) regretted that politician-bashing had become “fashionable.” It was all the more regrettable that the textbooks were brought out by the NCERT under the HRD Ministry, he said.
Yashwant Sinha (BJP) pointed out that not only were MPs and MLAs being made fun of, but the entire parliamentary and democratic structure was also being denigrated by some people.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said, “Such cartoons need mature minds to understand. The minds of the youngsters who are being taught are not.”
Lalu Prasad (RJD) said withdrawing cartoons and textbooks would not help in “clearing” the minds of the children who had been influenced by these books.
SP chief Mulayam Singh, T.K.S. Elangovan (DMK), Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP), M. Thambi Durai (AIADMK), Shatabdi Roy (Trinamool), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Anant Geete (Shiv Sena) and Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) expressed concern over the wrong depiction of politicians in a sustained manner.