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Did The Ministry Of Education Fool The Nation About How It Framed NEP 2020?

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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.

education in india

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?

Everyone needs to be educated
Did the Ministry of Education fool the nation and the world at large by inviting comments on its draft NEP 2020 policy?

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?

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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