When Union Ministers of India Prakash Javadekar and Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank announced the New Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) on July 29, 2020, the media was given to understand and the nation to believe that all stakeholders’ views were taken into account while approving the education policy.
The Secretary of Higher Education and Minister of Education were both emphatic on the consultation process, which can be observed from the video below. Emphasis on ‘consultation’ was unmistakable and both TV as well as newspapers mentioned this prominently in their report.
The Education Minister Pokhriyal went into great details about the consultation process while answer a question from a reporter of The Hindu as quoted below.
Q: “Is the policy decision to make the mother tongue as medium of instruction till Class 5 going to be implemented mandatorily across the country, or is it optional for each State Education department to adopt? Has the Centre taken States’ views on board on this issue? Have any States raised concerns on implementing this?”
Mr Pokhriyal: “The Ministry of Education has conducted a rigorous consultation process to ensure an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach while framing the NEP. Over two lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks, 6,000 urban local bodies (ULBs), 676 districts were received.” [These are when the 448-page long draft of the NEP 2020 was made. But what about the public comments after the draft was released in the public domain?]
As we all know the draft of NEP 2019 was released for public comments by the then Minister HRD Prakash Javadekar in June 2019. Just one month’s time was given to 130 crore Indians to send their comments on the full draft that was released only in two languages — English and Hindi. After much outcry from the people, very scanty, a summary of the draft policy was released in other regional languages and the deadline for public comments was extended till August 14, 2019.
We in Nagpur joined hands to study the draft policy and make suggestions to the government. We raised public awareness all over Maharashtra and central India against the draft recommendations. People sent several emails and letters to the government. After careful examination of the draft NEP 2019, we sent a detailed feedback, (based on this article written by me) on 10 conceptual points, which, if put together, would make the NEP a draconian policy that would render a huge population as irrelevant.
We had sent this letter in English and Hindi based on the respective draft NEP 2019 to the Minister HRD, all opposition leaders, as well as to over 500 Members of Parliament (both Loksabha and Rajyasabha). Though none of them acknowledged our feedback, at least few of them must have read it or forwarded it to the government.
The draft policy aimed at creating a discriminatory social structure, ditto in the pre-independence style in the name of ‘preservation’ of the Indian value system. It reintroduced caste-based professions in the name of skill development and negated any affirmative action such as reservations and scholarships.
In the draft policy 2019, if you searched for ‘reservations’, it would throw more results of ‘preservation’ and few about ‘reservation’. In the final NEP 2020, as sanctioned by the Cabinet, the word ‘reservation’ is simply not there! Education is considered a valuable part of Right to Life (Art.21-A) and is a precursor to the implementation of the Fundamental Rights (Art.15, Art.16) and many other constitutional provisions. But, the policymakers seem to be oblivious to all these issues and are more guided by their personal ideological agenda.
While doing so, however, they must create a hype to have widespread support of all stakeholders. That is the reason for their over-emphasis on the consultation process. But the consultation process that the government claims to have had is prior to the release of the draft NEP 2019. The same details of consultation are mentioned in the draft document itself by the Dr Kasturirangan Committee on page 448 of the English draft of the policy.
Then what happened to the comments from people, MPs, state governments and other stakeholders that they received after the draft NEP 2019 was put in public domain for comments for about two months? Were these inputs scrutinised, summarised and taken into consideration before giving a final approval to this important policy decision that would affect the coming generations?
I sought to know through the RTI how those voluminous public comments were disposed of. I asked for, inter alia, “(2) Copy of Executive Summary of public comments on draft NEP-2019 with file notings and action taken report thereon. (3) Copies of Letters received from the Hon’ble Members of Parliament with file notings, action taken report on each of these letter. (5) Whether letter dtd. 05.09.2019 was received from the Shikshan Sangharsh Samanwaya Samiti, Nagpur? [copy of front page is attached for quick reference].”
This last was about the letter sent by us from Nagpur.
The reply I got simply said that nothing could be done about those comments. The reply says “Para 2, 3 and 5: No such executive summary was prepared, as such is not available in the records. However, it is informed that more than two lakhs suggestions/comments were received from different stakeholders including the MPs. Since the comments/suggestions/feedback received are voluminous in number and contain lakhs of pages, you are requested/suggested to inspect the records available with this public authority on any working day and time mutually convenient and obtain the copies of the desired information on payment of additional fees.”
Did the Ministry of Education fool the nation and the world at large by inviting comments on its draft policy document and then simply showing them a dustbin and still claiming of a rigorous consultation process before the approval of the National Education Policy 2020?