Opinion » Lead

Updated: June 22, 2012 13:51 IST

Parliament's say extends to the classroom

Prabhat Patnaik
Comment (42)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

It was entirely correct for the Lok Sabha to have intervened in the textbook row as it represents the people, and their right to an egalitarian society, better than any group of “experts”

Too many red herrings have entered into the debate over the removal of the cartoon from the class XI Political Science textbook of the NCERT. Let us, to start with, get these out of the way. First, the removal of the cartoon can scarcely be held to constitute a violation of “freedom of expression”. No censorship has been exercised on a genuinely creative work giving expression to an author's views and persona; only a cartoon has been removed from a textbook which some authors were commissioned to write by the state. Even though the authors assented to the commission voluntarily, a textbook, meant for public educational use and commissioned by the state cannot really be described as the site of its author's creative and “free expression”. So, the claim that “free expression” is being thwarted is untenable.

Sense of humour

Second, the issue has nothing to do with whether those objecting to the cartoon have a sense of humour or not. A cartoon in a textbook is not merely a source of hilarity. Like the text, it expresses something and even a person with the most highly developed sense of humour can quite legitimately object to what a cartoon depicts. In fact, saying that the objections to the cartoon betray the lack of a sense of humour, and hence, by inference, that the cartoon is there only for purposes of levity, goes against the argument of the defenders of the textbook that introducing cartoons is part of a new pedagogy that combines different forms of expression to convey ideas to students. One may argue that objecting to this particular cartoon is uncalled for, but that is a matter relating to the interpretation of the cartoon, which is the real bone of contention and has nothing to do with sense of humour.

The third red herring is the antiquity of the cartoon. Sensitivities change over time, as does audibility. Sixty years ago, the Dalit voice was far less audible than it is today. The fact that a cartoon insensitive — if it is insensitive that is — to Dalit feelings raised no protests 60 years ago is no reason for expecting it to raise no protests today, or even for any surprise that it is raising protests today.

Finally the academic distinction of the two Chief Advisers who were responsible for the textbooks and who have both resigned, is also not relevant to the issue of whether the cartoon is objectionable or not. It is of course highly relevant if mala fide intentions are attributed to the Chief Advisers, which indeed is being done by some and has led to the most reprehensible perpetration of vandalism in the office of one of them. Any such attribution, needless to say, has to be fought relentlessly and the fact that the authors are very distinguished academics is a point to be made in that fight. But the distinction of the academics does not per se justify the cartoons. Judgment about what may or may not hurt feelings can differ, and even the most distinguished academics may have a view that others may disagree with.

Need for procedure

Precisely for that reason, protests of this kind are bound to arise from time to time. What is required is a procedure in place for handling them, and not ex cathedra pronouncements of Ministers on the spur of the moment under political pressures of various kinds. For instance a committee of academics can be set up in each case to give an opinion and recommendation, not just a verdict but, if need be, an informed interpretation that helps to assuage feelings.

While I believe that the state should proceed this way, I must register serious disquiet at the suggestion, which is being frequently made in the media and even in academic circles, that the state, especially Parliament, should keep aloof from such matters altogether.

The argument is being advanced that school textbooks, or curricula, are matters which should be left to academics and that “politicians” or “the political class” should not be allowed to interfere in them. This is quite different from saying that academics must be normally entrusted with these tasks, that the state must leave these tasks to the academics as far as possible; it amounts to saying something more, namely that Parliament should have no jurisdiction in these matters, that classrooms must be insulated from the “political class”.

The problem with this argument is that if we wish to build an egalitarian society, free of caste and gender discrimination or discrimination against minorities, then classrooms are where we must begin; and leaving what is taught in classrooms exclusively to academics, among whom dominant social groups are far better represented, is precisely what must be avoided. We cannot pretend that academics are free of biases and prejudices, and are the sheer embodiments of pure reason. To say this is not to cast personal aspersions on those who hold the view that transactions in classrooms must be left exclusively to the judgment of academics; it is to suggest that they are wrong in their estimation of the consequences of what they are proposing.


This is quite apart from the fact that academics are accountable to nobody, and which ones among them get entrusted with the task of deciding what happens in the classrooms will in any case have to be determined by the state. Giving them exclusive control over such decisions therefore would amount to eliminating the accountability of the state itself, while introducing no compensating accountability of the academics, and hence in effect giving carte blanche to the so-called “political class” to act as it likes behind the façade of favoured and pliable academics.

Members of Parliament by contrast are accountable to the people, and the representation of the deprived social groups is far better among them than among the academics. Any attenuation of the jurisdiction of Parliament and its appropriation by any group of “experts” undermines the drive towards an egalitarian society. Parliament must consult “experts” but must not cede its jurisdiction to “experts”. The point is not just an empirical one: even if the composition of Parliament happened to be no different from that of the world of “experts”, the former, elected on the basis of one-person-one-vote and hence an embodiment of one aspect of the principle of equality, must not cede jurisdiction to the latter.

Indeed the blanket use of the term “political class” amounts to an implicit denigration of Parliament and hence by implication, of the centrality of the role of one-person-one-vote. Those elected on the basis of “one-person-one-vote” are seen merely as belonging to a particular group, the so-called “political class” which is no different from any other group, and if anything even worse: it has less “expertise” than the “experts”, it is on average less educated than the academics, it is shown on TV as being noisy and boorish, and allegedly has crooks, criminals and corrupt persons among its midst. What all this glosses over is the fundamental fact that those constituting Parliament are there because of a system, “one-person-one-vote”, which constitutes the negation of millennia of institutionalised inequality. Any denigration of Parliament, any curtailment of its powers and jurisdiction in favour of “experts”, amounts to a negation of this negation, a rolling back of this negation of institutionalised inequality.

Of course, a question may arise: if Parliament's jurisdiction is wide, then a fascist or authoritarian formation's acquisition of majority in it, hands over to such a formation control over social life on a platter. That certainly is true, which is why every action of Parliament must be scrutinised and contested, on the streets if necessary, even as its jurisdiction remains wide. An argument against restricting its jurisdiction does not amount to an argument for accepting passively the actions of Parliament. But restricting this jurisdiction for fear of fascism is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

No doubt, if Parliament is to claim its dignity, it must itself respect others, including in particular scholars, and rein in any propensity towards peremptoriness, and set its house in order in other ways too. But that, though important, is a separate issue.

The urban middle class in the country has for some time been displaying a disturbing degree of arrogance towards Parliament. This came to the fore inter alia during the Anna Hazare agitation. There were moments during that agitation when it claimed to represent “the people” and hence a status superior to Parliament. Such moments, when this or that group claims a status superior to that of Parliament in deciding on public matters, are alas appearing with greater frequency in our national life. It will be a pity if academics fall prey to this temptation to demand a curtailment of the jurisdiction of the only institution in the country which constitutes an expression of the principle of equality.

(Prabhat Patnaik held the Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

More In: Lead | Opinion

Mr. Patnaik have rightly said that for creating an egalitarian society, parliament should interfere on these types of matters. But I certainly dont think that the people who represent the parliament are actually working for the equality of people. As it is evident, this case is not first of its kind and is clearly a case of caste politics. We all know that the 'class' in which the highest degree of corruption is prevailent is the 'politics class'. As Mr. Patnak have said our politicians are generally not much educated(which they have shown on a number of occasions). So, given the present situation, does Mr. Patnaik really think that it is right to give these people authority to play with such a sensitive matter as academics. Until and unless our country have such politicians who actually represent the people, this is a bad idea.

from:  Imran Ali
Posted on: Jun 18, 2012 at 20:46 IST

The purpose of the cartoon was to legitimately criticise the scenario
using a cartoon. By removing the cartoon using the all encompassing
garb of “offending sensibilities” rather than academic considerations,
you DO obstruct the right of the cartoonist and by that extension, the
authors of the textbook who shared a similar outlook, in expressing
their opinion.
Rather than go into banning valid opinion on grounds of “offending
people’s sentiments”, what we need is a fair, unbiased evaluation of
curriculum. The issue is that politicians make political decisions
which are not necessarily in the best interests of the people but
pander to their whims and expedite the personal interests of the
politicians themselves. Such considerations do not translate into
academically sound decisions. To build a truly egalitarian society,
one needs to keep the children free from bias and political
consideration, and to influence their learning by choosing politically
acceptable material is unacceptable.

from:  Harish S
Posted on: Jun 14, 2012 at 10:28 IST

dear all, i come from a family that was once 'untouchable'. i have
never felt the stigma much, probably because i was born and brought up
in an urban environment where caste mattered visibly less. yet, when i
studied those same cartoons that are now called into question, i
neither felt anger, nor did i feel the need to abuse. instead, it
engaged us, provoked us and made us fall in love with the textbook and
in the long run, the subject (though i later discovered that the
subject could have been much more boring without this witty
representations and lucid texts). i loved the books, the lovable
characters unni and munni, often for asking irreverent questions in an
on-your-face manner. my parents loved it, my grandfather, who is a
retired professor of political science, actually bought several copies
and recommended them to several of his students who were professional
teachers of political science in schools and colleges. what patnaik
says is simply removed from the reality.

from:  somak
Posted on: Jun 3, 2012 at 23:27 IST

Kapil Sibal allegedly owns 2 universities , JP University and another one. This explains the current interest of Parliament in textbooks , education and modification of all entrance exam rules.

from:  Saurabh Sharma
Posted on: May 29, 2012 at 21:30 IST

Any system can work towards betterment with the right amount of checks and balance. If academic experts be given the complete autonomy to decide everything, it is true like the author said, we can never have an egalitarian society as representation of vulnerable society are far less in the pool of experts. Images speaks thousand words and if young minds are exposed to a nonsecular or insensitive cartoon like the one in controversy, compassion for the underprivileged ones can never become a reality. At some level Parliament do have a right to keep a check on these kind of occurrences so that neither it hurts anyone ( sense of humor cannot supersede hurting other's sentiments ) Sixty years ago there was practically no platform for Dalits to voice their feeling, it is no wrong if they are doing it now. Right to live a dignified life is a right of every citizen.

from:  Neetika Vilash
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 12:58 IST

The writer himself is having a huge bias for Parliament and he talks
about egalitarian society. He tries to denigrate the Suhas Palshikar's
views presented in his article in the Hindu. I dont understand, with
what attitude the writer is terming the anguish of urban middle class to
arrogance... His views match more to authoritarian policies. Moreover
writer has a huge bias against one of the experts as it can be seen from
his constant reference to "political class" which was mentioned in Suhas Palshikar's article

from:  Pankaj
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 12:51 IST

What is the legal recourse for those students and professor who are
going to be persecuted? Can't the governor/ President intervene? I wish
The Hindu backs this article with an urge for action against such
dictatorial tactics of a public representative in a democratic country.
It is horrifying enough that Ms.Bannerjee as an elected CM chooses to
terrorise her critics, but what is more shocking is the complete absence
of any constitutional intervention in this matter.

from:  luhar sen
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 12:13 IST

The political science curriculum should reflect the realty of todays
politics rather than some idealistic notions of democracy. Otherwise the
students who will have to vote after 2 years of reading this will finding
a glaring inconsistency from what they are taught and what they actually
see and can easily get disenchanted. I didnt hear any media report that
challenged the power of parliament to do what they did. Only that whether
they did the wise thing. Its a shame to our democracy that most
politicians are easily vulnerable to vote bank politics. There was no
informed debate about this in the parliament.

from:  Girish
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 11:55 IST

parliament is supreme and has wide jurisdiction.but does it really debate issues?One find day mayawati stans and say so and so cartoon hurts dalit feelings and the whole house withoput any sembelance
opf a debate echoes...while outside parliament the whole country
feels outraged,but is helpless since parliament is
least give us the other side of the argument too....surely the
cartoon is not such a mindless piece of imagination that needs no
scrutiny....and you accept us to trust parliament blindly....why??

Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 10:57 IST

I wonder what would have been Prof. Patnaik's position if a
Parliamentary Commmittee started minitoring (and God forbid even
dictating) the syllabus in JNU.

from:  Abhay Datar
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 08:56 IST

If go by your logic, then, we must accept everything what parliament
does. Vote bank politics is well known in the system. These
parliamentarians throw every logic out of the window when issue comes
to their vote banks. In case of cartoons issue also, same happened.
How come criticizing someone through cartoons become offensive to a
certain caste/community? After few years, Dr. Manmohan Singh will
start coming in books; if go by your logic, then, one must not
question his ineffectiveness in UPA-2 govt as he transformed Indian
economy in 90s. And, that can offend another minority community. Hero
worship is dangerous for any society. This is what parliament is
asking us to do.

Science is also based on logics. Religion and science stand against
each other on many issues [Evolution and God is one such example].
Now, what would you say, those topics are offensive to religions and
hurting sentiments of many, so, should not be taught.

from:  Parveen
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 01:24 IST

The write-up seems to confuse and makes the reader more confounded than trying to educate on the issues involved. Yes, under Need for Procedure he advocates constitution of a committee of academics for opinion and recommendation to assuage the feelings. Good idea. Under accountability, Parliament, elected on the basis of one person-one vote and hence represent one aspect of principle of equality must not cede its jurisdiction to the other. Then what is the committee for? To go its usual way of others in the legion?

from:  S.R.Nagarajan
Posted on: May 23, 2012 at 00:31 IST

It is not that only school children are students. As long as one lives, he is a student learning from his own experiences in life,apart from reading newspapers/viewing TV programs about the elected representatives,their performances/policies. Based on these, an educated person decides whom to cast his vote next time around. So, as representatives of the people, can the lawmakers bar news unpalatable to them from reaching the public, which is what the author is justifying with regard to their ultimate right to decide school text books ? By his logic, the author is promoting censorship of news as well from reaching the public, which is not acceptable in a democracy. Even so,there wouldn't be any cause for fear from the article being censored or banned because of its staunch support for government's action regarding the "cartoon book" for Class XI students.

from:  KS Raghunathan
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 22:51 IST

The tone of the author sounded, as if a sword was being drawn from its
sheath. It made me feel disquiet afterward, the Author tailoring his
view by making statement: Parliament has the authority to take all
decision as they it has supremacy power. We have different type
governing body to take their stand on various issues. I must say, lets
get into an intense discussion by taking Parliament and other’s into
the loop, but final verdict based on mutual agreement should be taken
by standing committee(Mutually nominated by Parliament members,
education department. It’s rueful to get those people a chance to take
their stand and they may be ready to make amiss education system. If
mentioning carton in study books is not hilarity then giving veto to
parliament to take decision is also a disastrous setback.

from:  Prasannajeet Mohanty
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 18:38 IST

This whole idea of government commissioning text book writing and
distributing to an entire nation is an anachronism of the socialist
past. Nowhere in the world governments are in the business printing
and publishing books. Top educational experts must develop curriculum,
local school districts must develop syllabi and competent authors
write textbooks that ca be recommended, and not prescribed, by the
school teachers. Our politicians, most of whom have no clue about
children psychology or primary education, should stay out of
education. Prabhat Patnaik, being a leftist (communist) is in the
Chinese and North Korean mode of brain washing school children. This
will not work in India ever. No political ideologue of any kind of
persuasion must be allowed to interfere with school education.

from:  Dr. Shanthu Shantharam
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 18:31 IST

The author of the article bases his arguments on the authority of the parliament by virtue of being an elected representative body of the people. But this argument of his itself is failing in the present discussion as majority of the commentators who have given their views do not seem to be agreeing with him . This aside, in a learning siuation the value of the method - text or picturisation - used to present the cognitive material in a text book depends on how well it helps the learner to assimilate the intended learning. In the present case the picture, which once was a cartoon, now becomes a powerful instrument for explaining to the students how time consuming was the process of constitution making and how both Nehru and Ambedkar along with other members of the constituent assembly worked hard to get it through. Moreover mere reading material may not produce an as lasting impression on the mind of the learner as when it is accompanied by a picture.

from:  V.s.Malhotra
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 18:02 IST

Very interesting article and as I said googly from PP.
I do agree with his most of the points. His arguments regarding no relevance of freedom of expression, right of parliament to intervene in the matter or maintaining superiority of parliament are well taken.
However I have difference of opinion on following issues with his article.
First issue is the issue of sense of humor. Even accepting the fact that sensitivity changes with the time and there is a legitimacy of objecting the cartoon by any person even , I think he has deliberately avoided the interpretation of the cartoon. I think even in today’s context also the cartoon is now way degrading Dr. Babasahed Ambedkar or hurt Dalit Sentiments.
Second does he means academicians don’t have authority to create an egalitarian society just because by default they represent dominant section and are not elected by the people? Further what about the danger of using this power by fascist power as he himself pointed out ?

from:  Ravi Kadam
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 17:07 IST

The issue that holds the gravity is the house wasting its precious time and resources on an issue that could be sorted out in no time.But our leaders have become habitual in providing the resistance to each others party irrespective of the issue in hand and this austernity in thier beahviours is not just a todays issue,its some think that has become a part of their daily house routine.Creative suggestion are less and useless altercations are more.The main focus is downfacing each other rather the use of the gold time.

from:  Tapan Sharma
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 16:16 IST

Finally, a great article, which explores logically about the cartoon controversy.

from:  Susi.Thiagarajan
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 15:47 IST

Good analysis but the counter to the first "red herring" is completely
flawed. The cartoon is a "form of expression" and the government
decision to ban/withdraw the cartoons in all textbooks IS a clear cut
case of censorship. There is absolutely no debate that the government
retains the ultimate right to edit the book and remove inappropriate
content. Shankar (if alive) couldnt force the Government to insert his
cartoon. But any form of government intervention or censorship (in this case
withdrawal of textbooks or their distribution) is most certainly a
restriction on free speech and expression. Whether it is reasonable or
not is where you need to argue. The argument that "cartoons in a
textbook is not expression, hence there is no violation" is a little
silly. Any text,cartoon, words, speech etc in any newspaper, textbook,
internet or through any other medium is expression. Govt intervention
limiting such expression is a restriction/violation depending on your

from:  saket
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 15:40 IST

How Prabhat Patnaik holds removal of cartoon does not constitute violation of freedom of expression is baffling,though the cartoon itself is not the creative work of the authors.He,however,negates this view by arguing next that the cartoon,like the text,expresses something and it is this 'something' to which the authors are entitled by way of its belonging to the authors' creative and free expression site.Why choose this one instead of another,if not to express a particular viewpoint? It hurt somebody belatedly cannot be held against it.Assuming that Parliament's say extends to the classroom,why did the government allow its inclusion in the first instance and its continuance thereafter and did shake from slumber after a community's so-called 'hurt' and call for the head of the authors?Parliament,elected on one person-one vote, is truly an embodiment of equality ,but its reach is circumscribed by legality.

from:  Chidambaram Kudiarasu
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 14:52 IST

I agree with the other commenters, especially those who've
pointed out the flaw in the argument that parliament(and the
masses it represents) has the competence to judge matters of
science(I use the term science broadly to mean not just the hard
sciences of physics and chemistry, but also disciplines like
history, political science etc.). The fact is that individual
academics might be prejudiced or biased, but science overall is
self-correcting; much of published science is about challenging
existing well-accepted theories. People and parliamentarians
might have different views based on, say, the aryan-dravidian
theory or the theory of evolution, but they have ZERO competence
to judge the matter. It must be left to the academics who can
sensibly weigh the evidence and reach a meaningful consensus.
Parliament and the people it represents does have its right to
opinion, but they do not have rights to their facts.

from:  Raamganesh
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 14:15 IST

I am happy to endorse what all Patnaik has written here. But I want to
quote here what EM Forster wrote in 1939."..I believe in the
Press,despite all its lies and vulgarity, and why I believe in
Parliament. It is often sneered at because it is a Talking shop. I
believe in it because it is a talking shop. I believe in the Private
Member who makes himself a nuisance. He gets snubbed and is told that
he he is cranky or ill-informed, but he does expose abuses which would
otherwise never have been mentioned. Occasionally,too, a well-meaning
public official starts loosing his head in the cause of efficiency and
thinks himself God Almighty..Whether Parliament is either a
representative body or an efficient one is questionable, but I value
it because it criticises and talks, and because its chatter gets
widely reported. So two cheers for Democracy,one because it admits
variety and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers are quite
enough:there is no occasion to give three."

from:  Narayana Sambarapu
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 13:07 IST

Mukundagiri Sadagopan has hit the nail squarely on the head . Why arent these same questions or points being raised and highlighted by our media I wonder !

Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 12:01 IST

The author has brought forward his opinions quite eloquently for which
he must be appreciated. But I beg to disagree with him on few counts,
whole premise that Parliament enjoys supreme faith of people over any
other "experts" is both dangerous and untrue. Neither the people while voting were queried on all the subjects (especially when subject is not related with policy or mandate) nor following the "experts" is undemocratic in any way else even a judicial committee would be undemocratic for want of direct representation. While delay of 60 years in responding could be attributed to Dalit upliftment, delay of picking up the cartoon (which has been in book since 6 years) shows at best it is innocuous and at worst, politicians are opportunists. At last, being unable to see humor behind cartoon has indeed to do with one's sense of humour and over-zealous interpretation (Nehru whipping Ambedkar) shows "touchy" attitude and a rigid mind-set.

from:  Shashank
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 11:43 IST

If a popularly elected Parliament of the day were to be the sole arbiter
of what's in a text book, we'd have possibly still had Sati and Child
Marriage as venerable institutions. If a Parliament considers its
legitimacy threatened by an academic Text Book, the problem is not with
the threat but the insecurity that perceives it.

from:  Neel
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 11:41 IST

I laughed out loud after reading the article. The author understands that Parliamentarians (most of them) are anything but rational by writing about how the parliament functions, and yet demands supreme power vested with them!If we wish to see an egalitarian society, caste must be the last thing taught to students.

from:  Vishwa
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 11:33 IST

maybe there is a need to strike a balance between the extent to which politicians must decide on what to be taught and the academicians as they have the expertise in this doubt parliament is supreme and reflects majority but the actions being taken taken must not reflect prejudice's.

from:  swagat
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 11:00 IST

The author Prabhat Patnaik is missing the point that our current electoral system enables even 162 individuals (29.83 %)with criminal charges and 76 (14.00 %)individuals with serious criminal charges ( courtesy ADR website) to sit inside this parliament and draft laws regarding education of our children . Our electoral laws and laws of parliament permits an ex- minister to walk straight out of jail on bail and walk straight into parliament . Our electoral laws allow MPs with zero intellectual content and devoid of any worthwhile convictions to sit inside parliament and create controversies over irrelevancies to gain only political mileage.
Yes Parliament is an important institution in democracy and must have a say in such matters as national education policy , but only after suitable electoral reforms have been implemented to ensure right people are elected to Indian parliemant . Until then its best education policies be left to the 'experts '.

Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 10:56 IST

I'd agree if the debate dealt with the issues apart from just shrill
demand from the MPs. They shouted; they did not even reason.

from:  Mahesh Vijapurkar
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 10:45 IST

Yes, parliament represents people but that does not mean it is an expert on 'everything'. Going by the author's logic- if some xyz religious group protest against the science taught in schools/colleges (theory of evolution, egg & sperm being "essential" for pregnancy, earth being older than 5000 yrs, etc.)- parliament would be doing the right thing by removing these topics from curriculum. Are we going towards dark ages? So much for people's sensitivity!
And not to forget that one group or another will find SOMETHING insensitive in EVERYTHING, however benign that thing might be. Bowing to these whims would lead us nowhere.

from:  Sunil Lathwal
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 10:02 IST

Yes, our Parliament is supreme. We are not debating the supremacy of our Parliament. In the instant case of contents of NCERT text books, our esteemed Members of Parliament have wasted their precious time and tax payers’ money to discuss something which is best left to the educationists. But I see a bigger danger in this debate. While some people want a right to criticize actions of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and even condemn them, they are not ready to accept others’ right to express another point of view of their own leaders. This kind of attitude is undemocratic and would lead to creation of authoritarian regimes.
Incidentally, we have seen several disruptions both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha all these years. Is disruption the only way of democratic protest? Would refusal of right of expression of others’ and different point of view make Parliament more powerful?

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 09:31 IST

If we strip the frilly arguments of the writer to their flimsy core, he is paying homage to the ability and motives of MPs to make judgments about child education, juvenile thought development, arts appreciation and student psychology. The reputation of MPs in India is deservedly on par with the lowest strata. Many MPs have criminal records; some are under a cloud of pending legal action by the courts, and their educational level is average or less. Whenever a caste group invents an imagined insult, MPs spring to action defending the vote bank, not in least bothered about what is right, or what is fair. Is it any wonder that these MPs are the very same ones who are selfishly fighting the Lok Pal law tooth and nail because that would send some of them to central Jails?. It is fashionable these days to talk about the Upcoming India’s World Class Education., That’s not going to happen as long as politicians insert their dirty fingers in academia.

Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 08:11 IST

Thank you for the nice piece of writing. Definitely agree to your point that parliament must have jurisdiction on all matters for creating an egalitarian soceity. Also agree to the need for the procedures to handle the issues of this kind, that seems to happen quite often these days. Sesitivities were carefully cultivated, perhaps?

However, to me, "the seperate issue" in which parliamentarians failure to claim the dignity is what exactly consuming the middle class. The people of the country has waited patiently for too long for an orderly house. What we see today is that void is being filled by all sorts of actors. Also, I would not view the middle class as displaying arrogance but it is a class that is deeply agitated. It is an emotion that has arisen purely out of the love for their nation. No amount of logic could defy that.

from:  Sathish
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 08:04 IST

I think you are out of reality, when this issue come up in media reaction of My daughter 9th std was "only thing interesting in these books are cartoons". It is for sure childern enjoy these cartoons and resulting in their interest in the subject itself. The move by government will result in removing these contents from books. Result no student will be interested!!!! Great job at the end of the day!!!

from:  srinivasan
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 07:59 IST

The whole concept of education has to be understood before we debate on the parliament's say in our education system. Essentially, the classroom teaching can be categorized in to two parts. One is inherent learning, the other is to follow what is being taught. Patnaik's analysis takes the assumption of education being belongs to the latter category. Many of our eminent scientists, scholars, doctors and renowned industrialists that have shaped the world belongs to the former category. I am strongly oppose to the idea of state intervention in the education, the assumption to build an egalitarian society is highly impracticable. We will always be having inequality.

from:  Sandeep Thakur
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 07:30 IST

If left to people, Creationism and ID will be taught as Science and
not Evolution. Hence it is best that academics decide the curriculum.
The checkpoint should be another set of academics and not the state.

from:  Siva Bhaskaran
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 07:05 IST

Although the freedom of expression of the authors of the textbook is irrelevant, what has been trampled upon is the right to interpret and understand the past by observing it from various angles and encouraging questions. The issue of dalit sensitivities never arise because Dr.Ambedkar framed the constitution of India, not the constitution of dalits and the cartoon only shows him trying to somehow change the snail's pace at which constitution was being framed which also negates your third argument.
When we gained independence, we had a parliament and politicians who were much better than what the people deserved. But now, it cannot meet the standards expected of it. Leaving academic matters to politician's is not only unfeasible but dangerous too. It will lead to micro-managing, propaganda and an attempt to white-wash history.

from:  Anand Shankar
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 05:25 IST

I agree that the supremacy of the Parliament should be upheld. But does it represent the masses? Though elected by people, most millionaire members do not believe in an egalitarian society and barring the left, all other parties pay lip service to the terms like equality and equity, but practise anything but them. Now persons get elected to Parliament and State Legislatures spending crores only to get personal benefits. Only when the commoner conquers these bodies, you may speak about their supremacy.

from:  S.S. Rajagopalan
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 04:56 IST

The author says, "It was entirely correct for the Lok Sabha to have intervened in the textbook row as it represents the people..". By this logic why do we need ANY delegation or experts at all in any field? Why not have the lok sabha decide the space policy, the school lunch menus, the bus and train timings of all buses and trains, when and how the streets will be cleaned? Why not have the lok sabha make decisions on how to design our rockets and satellites?

from:  K. Raghunathan
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 03:47 IST

The question here is not whether the Parliament has the right to
intervene in Textbook contents. It off course has that right.
The question is whether the Parliaments intervention is right.
Parliament reflects the will of the majority, and majority opinion need
not be right always.

from:  Varkey
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 02:36 IST

While commending the well thought out very acceptable analyses of the jurisdiction of the parliament in the said case of cartoons in text books, the average urban middle class in the country has displayed the unacceptable arrogance only after 60 years of being taken for a ride along with the rest of the poor or rich class whether urban or rural. If at all, this is only a reflection of the arrogance displayed in words, deeds and action by some elected representatives who definitely have misued the trust reposed on them by the electorate..

from:  R.N. Iyengar
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 01:48 IST
Show all comments
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor



Recent Article in Lead

Naman P. Ahuja

Who appoints the keeper of memories?

The transfer of the Director General of the National Museum, Delhi, at a time when the museum has begun to show signs of a turnaround, shows that governments are still unable to grasp the rather specialised nature of such institutions. »