ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Controlling Education

While the moves at 'structural transformation' by the ministry of human resource development under the leadership of Murli Manohar Joshi through curbing/stamping out dissidence and placing favourites in key positions have come under some scrutiny, the equally dubious and possibly more important changes in the arena of school education and literacy programmes have gone relatively unnoticed.

Acharya Murli Manohar Joshi is a popular dartboard figure, and nowhere more so than in the left liberal camp. His very appearance – dhoti, ‘angavastram’ and a large tilak on the forehead – is like a red rag to a bull. He is also not known for his circumspection of speech, particularly once he starts off on his favourite bug-bear – the secular intelligents, whom he gleefully lambasts as deracinated and lacking in tradition. But more than his sartorial preferences and intemperate pronouncements, he will be remembered for being single-minded in the pursuit of his objectives.

The ministry of human resources development (MHRD) rarely represents a prize position for senior politicians. Barring the erudite Maulana Azad and much later P V Narsimha Rao, it has rarely been occupied by politicians known for their intellectual acumen. What few, however, realise is that the MHRD represents a large empire, and though its budgets nowhere match those of the more glamorous ministries of home affairs, defence or finance, the possibilities it offers for those seeking to dispense patronage are immense. Even more important is its role in ideological battles. So if Syed Nurul Hassan made ‘creative’ use of his position by bringing in favourites in key academic positions, central to Indira Gandhi’s project of cultivating a left-populist image, and Arjun Singh, ever keen to project himself as the last defender of secularism, extended the patronage to individuals from the Fourth Estate, Joshi has been untiring in his efforts at promoting a saffron agenda. Little wonder that so many of his actions are mired in controversy.

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