New Delhi: Human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar has written a first-of-its-kind letter to nearly 10 million freshers in higher educational institutions reminding them of their social responsibilities and to be model students by focusing on education, and help in nation-building.
The letter reaches out to the focussed group directly, a typical functioning style of the present Union government, and has subtle messages on how students need to behave in higher educational campuses. The HRD ministry has faced protests at different universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and Hyderabad University on its handling of different issues ranging from Dalit rights to nationalism and tweaking of courses.
“The higher educational institutions are meant to create knowledge and disseminate them so that larger society would gain...I earnestly urge you to focus on the work for which you came here, so that when you leave this institution, you will go with knowledge and satisfaction," Javadekar wrote in the letter. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.
Javadekar reminds students that fees at government funded institutes are low because the “poor" are subsidising “your education", hence they should stay indebted and remember those people who really paid for their education.
The minister also made the young students—mostly first time voters—aware about their voting rights.
“You should realise that the people of this country, especially the poor, are subsidising your education with their sweat and toil, and by the taxes that they pay," the mister wrote.
In a recent interview to WION, a Zee Media channel,Javadekar had said students in JNU or in institutions in any other part of the country are indebted to the people of this country and he is trying to spread the message. He had said in the interview that in central institutions, “we are teaching at Rs15 per month whereas the cost is Rs20,000 per month".
“The minister’s message is clear—focus on education than getting involved in activities which are counterproductive for the government, the institution and students themselves. One may allude to JNU and Hyderabad University controversies etc, but again as the HRD minister he is only asking to be model students and help in nation building. What’s wrong in that," said a HRD ministry official requesting anonymity.
Taking a leaf from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 15 August speech, Javadekar added in the letter that freshers who are entering higher education now will become the millennium’s first voters in 2018 and they will be responsible for deciding the fate of the country, a move that the opposition Congress party feels is a political overreach by a ministry to persuade potential voters well ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“As you will be entering the list of voters, many of you born in the year 2000, will be millennium’s new voters and therefore will be deciding the fate of this country in ways more than one", the HRD minister wrote.
Nearly 35 million students are pursuing higher education in India at over 51,000 colleges and universities. Of these 35 million, nearly 10 million enter the system every year.
“I have respect for Mr Javadekar but what he is writing directly to students is completely political message. It’s an overreach by a minister to influence young minds. The letters are devious in nature...instead the ministry should focus on clear education goals and on improving the overall quality of education than talking about vote," said Congress leader and former HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju.
During the 2014 general elections, there were 120.48 million first-time voters of which 23.16 million were of the 18-19 age group, according to Election Commission data. So, the college freshers constitute a sizable portion of this population.
On 15 August , Modi, targeting the first time voters, had said: “January 1, 2018 will not be an ordinary day—those born in this century will start turning 18. For these people, this is a decisive year of their lives. They are going to be the creator of the destiny (Bhagya Vidhata) of our nation in the 21st century. I heartily welcome all these youth, honour them and offer my respects to them. You have an opportunity to shape the destiny of our country. A proud nation invites you to become a part of its developmental journey."