By Nirendra Dev
The New Education Policy (NEP) draft prepared by the government has created a fear of invoking "a new brand of nationalism" linked to one religion, senior Congress leader K.V. Thomas has said.
In an interview to IANS, Thomas criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for portraying mythological narratives as examples of ancient India's medical feats.
"The country is no longer talking about development as was promised. But the public discourse is about cow protection, need for secularism and invoking a new brand of nationalism which is linked to one religion," Thomas said.
Thomas sounded critical of the new education policy, saying that the "shift" seems to be in the direction of promoting only one kind of values.
"There is a fear among academic communities that there would be victimisation of those who do not believe in one brand of politics," Thomas said, adding that the "space for dissent is disappearing".
"There is an increasing saffronisation of education and society. There are atrocities against the Dalits," he said, adding that the people definitely miss visionaries like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Zakir Husain.
"Many Indian scientists felt ashamed when Prime Minister Modi referred to mythological character Karna's birth and elephant God Ganesha's head as examples of India's achievements in science. They were at best metaphors. I do not mind reference to metaphors from mythology. But the Prime Minister could have used other examples," Thomas said.
In October 2014, referring to Karna's birth Prime Minister Modi had claimed that the character from Mahabharata was not conceived in his mother's womb which proved that genetics was part of Indian scientific traditions in the distant past.
Asked what has been the Congress's role in framing a roadmap for the education system over the last six decades, Thomas said: "As Congressmen we should take responsibility for failure to create an education system that could help Indians elect a scientifically inclined Prime Minister".
Thomas, who is Chairman of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, criticised the government's move to merge Railway Budget with the Union Budget, saying "the government is determined to destroy all democratic institutions and past practices of governance".
"They got rid of the Planning Commission without taking Parliament into confidence. Today Niti Aayog is just an extension of the finance ministry. Similarly, they are trying to weaken the railways. It's just a way to centralise power. I am not for it," Thomas said.
Asked to comment on the Public Accounts Committee, Thomas said the panel is now at the final stage of preparing its report on non-performing assets (NPAs) of public sector banks.
"I cannot divulge details. But the unanimous feeling in the PAC is government and the public sector banks should evolve stringent measures on NPAs. We do not mind giving loans and financial support to corporate houses for major projects, but there should be transparency and strong mechanism of monitoring the grants released. Today that element is lacking," Thomas said.
"Often when the projects are delayed or fail to fructify, the funds go haywire," he said.
On the charge of a few BJP members that the PAC sub-committee on defence is being headed by Congressman Shantaram Naik only to slow down the probe in the AugustaWestland chopper scam, Thomas said: "I have checked the records of last 10 years. Sub-committee chairmanship is exclusive prerogative of the Chairman of the PAC. So it is not fair on BJP's part to question that."
According to Thomas, a sub-committee only helps in "expediting" probe into a particular case. "The report of the sub-committee does not go to Parliament or the Speaker directly. The full PAC deliberates it again before forwarding it. So the complaint or apprehension that a sub-committee will be prejudiced is premature and unjustified".
(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)