Youth, first-time voters in 2019, opponents: Who PM Modi will address on Teachers Day……..

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This September 5, Teachers Day, will be the first occasion for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to test his so called Gujarat model on a national scale.
The political controversy around ‘Guru utsav’ and the Centre’s push for beaming the Prime Minister’s speech and interaction on the occasion live to an audience comprising millions of young students, teachers and others apart, this is a practice that Modi has been following for several years as chief minister of Gujarat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with children in Tokyo. PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with children in Tokyo. PTI
Incidentally, Modi’s live interaction as PM will come when he returns from a much hyped visit to Japan and also just around the time that he is completing 100 days in office. So doubtless, his opening remarks and his responses to queries from students will make even his political opponents and critics watch the address. Perhaps Modi is aiming at more than just an interaction with students and teachers.
Interestingly, students of class eight and beyond will be first-time voters when the next general elections take place in 2019. If Modi is able to convince them that he has the right vision, he may be creating a huge mass of young and prospective voters for himself.
A Gujarat BJP leader told Firstpost that this serves “a great occasion for Modi to directly interact with young minds. In a democratic set-up the leader should have direct communication with the masses. He has the capacity to do that with purpose, with style and with content that motivates the students and teachers.” Modi is also open to the possibility that a young student may come up with compelling queries that may make him apply his mind and work in that direction, the BJP leader said.
Modi usually explains the relevance of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, he talks of of several other great Indian leaders whose birthdays should not be reduced to mere tokenism. “Don’t forget the scale at which he organises events relating to Sardar Patel,” he said.
That perhaps explains why Modi preferred Teachers Day over Children’s Day to address students. Bal Divas or Children’s Day is observed on November 14, Nehru’s birthday. A tussle is already underway between the Congress and the ruling BJP on how the Modi government will, if at all, celebrate Nehru’s 125 birth anniversary. The previous UPA government had big plans and had earmarked mega budgetary allocations for the occasion. Things have changed now. Radhakrishnan’s birthday will be celebrated with bigger purpose, if not with so much pomp.
In his blog, written on Teachers Day in 2013, Modi said: “Every Teacher’s Day I look forward to meeting more than 1 crore students of Gujarat. Using latest technology, I connect with these students and their teachers, spread across the state in a fun filled and enlightening session during which they ask me a number of questions. What truly amazes me is the innocence, the desire to know more and the phenomenal intelligence of the young minds. When these youngsters question me on various issues, I feel very happy that behind these minds are wonderful and hardworking teachers who are devotedly preparing them for a bright future.”
“Today we pay tributes to Dr S Radhkrishnan, whose birth anniversary is commemorated as Teachers Day every year across the nation. …Every year in the scorching month of June, my Cabinet Colleagues, senior officials and myself head to the villages of Gujarat and we personally ask parents to give their children for education. Our Gurotsav programme has instilled fresh vigour in our primary education system. It has allowed us to both introspect and at the same time look ahead in creating a quality system of education”.
The Guru Utsav plan for 2014 is centred around an essay competition (as was clarified later) in 23 languages for students divided into three categories – primary, middle and senior – that will precede Teachers Day. The winners of Guru Utsav contest will be felicitated on Teachers Day.
Since Modi has designated September 5 to be some kind of mass contact programme with or without obvious ideological tinges, the HRD Ministry had a challenge at hand. The ministry has gone almost on mission mode to make it a success. The CBSE too has been directly pitching for it and besides the ministry officials doing their bit, the CBSE has directed all its affiliate schools to make the required arrangements.
In its guidelines to schools, the CBSE said: “All the schools are requested to make arrangements to assemble the children on the 5th of
September 2014 in order that the children may view the Prime Minister’s address. Suitable arrangements will need to be made to enable children stay from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m in the school on the 5th of September, 2014. The live programme may be accessed through either of the following media — TV and facility for reception of TV signal either through DTH satellite, cable or aerial antenna, Edusat, Internet access devices (Computers/laptops/mobile etc.), Radios/transistors (for very remote areas where arrangement of TV viewing facility is not possible). Alternate arrangement may be made in the schools for electricity through generators/inverters.” It also asked the schools to send a compliance report. “A report on the arrangements made by your school and the number of students who are likely to be covered may be sent to the CBSE by 5 pm, 1st of September, 2014.”
While the government and aided schools were in any case bound by the government’s directives, the CBSE’s pro-activeness worked, with private and unaided schools having now slowly toed the official guideline. Most schools have changed their timings for the day. They will remain opening in the afternoon, from 1 pm to 5 pm, just to ensure students hear the PM. Bus operators too have been made to readjust their daily schedules in Delhi and NCR.
About the controversy around the term Guru utsav, as some RSS affiliated ideologues have pointed out, the Guru held a special position in Indian cultural tradition. “I don’t know why whenever someone attempts to present an alternate social discourse that is not in sync with the western tradition (teachers day as opposed to guru utsav) there is an uproar in a section of the political class. This has to change,” said the head of an RSS affiliated organisation. In RSS philosophical traditions, the saffron flag is Guru and every year on Guru Purnima a programme called Gurudakshina is organised.