The Rajasthan government’s decision to remove Indira Gandhi’s name from a scheme for meritorious schoolgirls and replacing it with that of a goddess has riled the Congress.
The Indira Priyadarshini Puruskar Yojana under which girls who score the highest in their districts in Classes 10 and 12 of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) are given cash awards, will now be called Padmakshi Puruskar Yojana.
The BJP government in the state last month decided to change the name of the scheme but did not publicize it.
Padmakshi, meaning a woman with lotus-like eyes, is another name for Goddess Saraswati, the deity of wisdom and knowledge. The award will be given on Basant Panchami at district-level functions every year beginning with 2017-18 session, the education department said a in press statement on Sunday.
Basant Panchami, dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, marks the beginning of spring (Basant in Hindi) and falls on the fifth day (Panchami) of Maagh month in the Hindu calendar. Hindus worship the goddess on this day and wear yellow, the colour of spring.
“Girls of general, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, other backward class, minorities and below poverty lines categories who score the highest in RBSE exams in Class 8, 10 and 12 will be awarded with cash and a certificate,” the statement quoted education minister Vasudev Devnani as saying.
However, the statement was silent on renaming of the scheme.
The Ashok Gehlot government started the Indira Priyadarshini
Puruskar Yojana in 2010-11 to award Rs 50,000 to Class 12 and Rs 40,000 to Class 10 district toppers in four categories: schedules caste, scheduled tribe, other backward class and minorities.
In 2013, the former chief minister included general category girls in the scheme and increased the award money to Rs 100,000 for Class 12 and Rs 50,000 for Class 10.
Apart from the new name, the Padmakshi Yojana has extended the award to toppers of Class 8 and included BPL families as the sixth category. The education department statement said girls of each category scoring the highest in Class 8 in their district will be given Rs 40,000.
The award scheme, the minister has been quoted as saying, is to promote girls’ education in the state and to continue the momentum in enrolment of girls in government schools.
On Sunday, HT asked the minister for a comment on the rechristening of the award scheme, but he refused to say anything. “Focus on the positives of the scheme – we have included a new category and extended it to include Class 8 toppers,” he said.
“We have taken a number of steps to promote girls education,” Devnani said, adding that 96,000 girls received the Gargi Puruskar this year. In 2014, the number was only 24,000. The award is given to all girls who score 75% or more in Board exams. “In order to stop dropout of girls, we are giving cycles to girls who live close to schools and transport vouchers to those who come from far away. Each girl gets Rs 20 every day for public transport,” he added.
But former chief minister Gehlot reacted sharply to the change. “Changing names of government schemes is a manifestation of a mean mentality. Schemes are named after leaders of the country not of parities. This is a dangerous trend,” he told HT on telephone.
Last year, the Rajasthan government came under fire from the Congress for erasing India’s first Prime Minister Nehru from the Class 8 textbook. The new textbooks for Class 10 and 12 introduced this year, have extra dose of nationalism with Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar pushing the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi to the margins.
Educationists had criticised the rewritten textbooks calling the new curriculum Hinduisation of country’s freedom struggle.