Missing from NCERT Sociology text: the cruel ironies of Vidarbha’s water crisis, pollution deaths, police atrocities

Case studies vividly describing the harsh experience of inequality in rural and urban India have been replaced with generic narratives; statistics on Indian pollution deaths have been replaced with global data

Updated - April 13, 2023 05:23 pm IST

Published - April 08, 2023 07:00 pm IST - NEW DELHI

None of these deletions have been declared by the NCERT in its published list of revisions. File image for representation.

None of these deletions have been declared by the NCERT in its published list of revisions. File image for representation. | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

References to the water crisis in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra which leads to agrarian distress, deaths due to pollution in India, and class-based killings by the police have all been dropped from the newly printed National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks.

The Hindu mapped the changes in the Class 11 Sociology textbook, Understanding Society, which revealed multiple instances of dropped topics. The culling of these topics was not declared in the public domain when NCERT released the list of rationalised content last year.

The starkest deletion is in Chapter 3 - Environment and Society, in a section titled, ‘Why environmental problems are also social problems.’ Three full pages from the chapter that deal with two case studies have been culled: one is about water-starved Vidarbha having a growing number of water parks and amusement centres, while the other is about the killing of an 18-year-old labourer and four others by the Delhi police in the industrial area of Wazirpur.

Stark inequalities

The case study on Vidarbha’s agrarian and water crisis was penned by veteran journalist P. Sainath and had first appeared in The Hindu on June 22, 2005. It describes the Fun and Food Village Water and Amusement Park in Bazargaon village of Nagpur district, a 40-acre haven which offers 18 kinds of water slides and games. Another branch of this water park is in Gurugram. The Hindu has confirmed that both the Nagpur and Gurugram facilities are still functional.

The deleted portion includes these lines: “Bazargaon falls in a region declared as scarcity-hit in 2004. It had never faced that fate before. The village also had its share of six-hour — and worse — power cuts till about May. These hit every aspect of daily life, including health, and devastated children appearing for exams. The summer heat, touching 47, made things worse. All these iron laws of rural life do not apply within Fun and Food Village. This private oasis has more water than Bazargaon can dream of. And never a moment’s break in power supply.” The deletions also include the mention of two more such parks in the State: one in Buldhana district’s Shegaon and one in Yavatmal.

Urban conflict

Similarly, a huge chunk of an article by Amita Baviskar, initially published in the International Social Science Journal, titled ‘Between violence and desire: space, power, and identity in the making of metropolitan Delhi,’ has been dropped. An entire sub-head titled ‘The Urban Environment — A Tale of Two Cities,’ has been chopped off. The section described conflict between the rich and the poor in the Ashok Vihar area of north Delhi. After a morning walker saw a poorly clad 18-year-old boy strolling in the park strolling in the park, he was beaten to death by a group of enraged house owners and two police constables. The boy was from a neighbouring colony of labourers in Wazirpur. The deleted section includes this line: “When a group of people from the jhuggis gathered to protest against this killing, the police opened fire and killed four more people.”

The newly revised version of the chapter has simply merged two subheads into one, titled ‘Sustainable Development’, and provided a generic narrative devoid of any detailed stories or examples.

Key statistics replaced

Further in the same chapter, statistics on indoor air pollution-related deaths in India have been deleted, including this section: “But we often don’t realise that indoor pollution from cooking fires is also a serious source. The World Health Organisation has estimated that almost 600,000 people died due to (cumulative) indoor pollution related causes in India in 1998, almost 500,000 of them in rural areas.” This has been replaced with global figures in the new version.

Also read | Citing overlap, NCERT removes portions on 2002 Gujarat riots, Emergency, Mughal courts from class 12 books

None of these deletions have been declared by the NCERT in its published list of revisions. The only declared change is the deletion of an article published in Outlook on May 8, 2006 titled ‘Meet the Parents’, about the “vicious cycle” of “teen marriages, migrant labour and cane factories in crisis”. Earlier, students were required to read the report and discuss the constraints that poverty posed to the children of migrant labourers.

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