‘Skill India’: Modi must stop appeasing the Sangh Parivar
Narendra Modi’s hope that India will emerge as the world’s “human resource capital” via his ‘Skill India’ project just as China has become a global manufacturing hub may not be fulfilled if the government continues to foist a RSS-inspired writ on educational and other institutions. It goes without saying that technical skills cannot be acquired by ill-educated students. The basis of these skills is a sound educational foundation rooted in science and technology. Such a requirement is all the more necessary in the present age when technology is constantly evolving. Today’s novelty is becoming obsolete tomorrow.
To keep pace with the changing world, the students must be in touch with the latest experiments and innovations in the sciences. They will also need the guidance of teachers who have an open mind and are in sync with the latest trends in the world of science and technology. To achieve this objective, the schools and colleges which are expected to pave the way for the “‘Skill India’” endeavours will have to be as far removed as possible from the kind of revisionist education anchored in myths and prejudices which the RSS wants to impart. The “‘Skill India’” campaign needs to dissociate itself from the ideas advocated by saffron propagandists about the presence of aeroplanes or pushpak raths in ancient India, where surgeons performed plastic surgery.
‘Skill India’ and ‘Digital India’ cannot be built on outlandish and unscientific ideas about the therapeutic value of cow’s urine or on the erroneous belief that cow dung offers protection against nuclear radiation. The residents of smart cities and the riders of bullet trains have to be attuned to modern science and not live steeped in the archaic ignorance and superstitions of the past. As the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has rightly said, “No country can become an industrial giant with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force”.
Unfortunately, there is an obvious disconnect between Modi’s modernism which has even been noted
by the Congress MP, Shashi Tharoor, and the antediluvian worldview of the RSS. Even then, the government continues to pander to the apparent wish of the Nagpur patriarchs to convert virtually all the venerable institutions into RSS shakhas by the appointment of individuals who have little respect among their professional peers.
As of now, this overwhelming influence of the RSS has been largely confined to institutions like the Indian Council of Historical Research, the National Book Trust, the Central Board of Film Certification or the Film and Television Institute, which generally function in a somewhat rarefied atmosphere with only a tangential connection with the rest of the world.
However, the attempts by the RSS to impose its writ on the schools and colleges of our nation via a human resource development minister who has studied only up to Class XII have the potential of derailing the ‘Skill India’ and other forward-looking programmes.
It is not surprising that the RSS is eyeing the vacancies in the National Council of Educational
Research and Training (NCERT), the central board of secondary education and several central universities, IITs and IIMs included evidently with the objective of filling them with its own nominees.
The NCERT must be high on the list of the Sangh Parivar’s hitlist since it prepares school textbooks, which purport to tell the students of the country’s “glorious past”. That Dinanath Batra, who had Wendy Doniger’s book on Hindus proscribed and pulped, met the minister in this context, is an indication of what the RSS brotherhood is planning.
There must be elements in the government who must be aware that Batra and Irani do not provide the most reliable of foundations for Skill and Digital India enterprises.
Yet, the prime minister probably has no alternative but to indulge them by incorporating some of their bizarre ideas into the curriculum as a means of persuading the parivar to restrain outfits like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and others from opposing the land law and other key items on the agenda of the economic reforms.
Having succeeded in persuading the saffron fundamentalists to go easy for the time being on ghar wapsi, love jihad and other anti-Muslim campaigns, Modi apparently wants the RSS to tell the SJM and others to back off while he deals with the opposition’s challenge on the reforms.
But, in the process of give-and-take, the yielding of ground in the educational sector can spell doom for his dream of consolidating and enhancing India’s status as a centre of human resources comprising a work force conversant with cutting-edge technology.
Modi’s predecessor as prime minister from the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was preoccupied with pushing economic reforms while showcasing India’s pluralism via his 24-member coalition till it fell apart in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi, on his part, is engaged in advancing the reforms with a technological orientation. But, his 21st century ideas cannot coexist with the medieval outlook of the RSS. IPA