The controversy over the HRD ministry 'cancelling' Christmas in government-run CBSE schools refuses to die down. While the ministry is denying that it asked schools to remain open on Christmas, The Times of India has come to out in defence of its original report.
Yesterday Times of India had published an article saying that the HRD ministry had issued a directive to CBSE run-schools to celebrate 'good governance day' on Christmas to mark the birth anniversaries of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Hindu Mahasabha leader Madan Mohan Malviya.
The report had indicated that the government had asked schools to remain open on Christmas day and directed them to hold an essay competition (an online one) and other on-ground activities like quizzes, documentary screening etc. Responding to the report, HRD minister Smriti Irani took to Twitter and slammed TOI alleging that the reporter had not checked and verified the facts. She announced that no school has been asked to remain open on Christmas. She added that the essay competition was an online one and not compulsory and asked the paper to retract the article.
However, TOI has decided to stand by its original report and pointed out that the original circular was issued by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti by Commissioner GS Bothyal. He had asked schools to conduct the following activities: Declamation contests on topics related to good governance, quiz competitions, screening of documentaries and films on best practices in good governance and organisation of various activities through child cabinets in the schools.
The circular, a copy of which was also shared on Twitter, adds that schools were also asked to encourage student participation in these activities and submit a report on how the day was celebrated.
The circular states: "You (principals of Navodaya Vidyalayas and assistant commissioners of Navodaya Vidyalaya headquarters) are requested to ensure that Good Governance Day is celebrated in all JNVs under your region. A consolidated report specifying activities carried out in all JNVs is to be submitted by email along with photographs/video recordings to this office on 25th December, 2014.
"Action taken in this regard is to be communicated to this office by return mail."
Yesterday, the HRD ministry had issued a press statement to point out the inaccuracies in the report. The ministry's press release can be seen here. In the press release, it was mentioned that the essay competition is purely voluntary and required online submission and no schools are required to remain open for this. Even CBSE officials will not have to come to work on 25 December, the statement said.
As regard to the Navodaya Vidyalayas, the ministry's press release had said that these are residential schools which will observe the public holiday. There will be no classes but since students live on campus, they can participate in the essay competition. It goes on to add that there will "No other activities" on Christmas other than the essay competition.
TOI has defended itself saying that based on the activities listed in the circular, the paper had concluded that the 'Navodaya school kids would not have their customary December 25 Christmas holiday'.
Based on the circular, it would be fair to conclude like TOI did, that Navodaya students will have to come in and participate in the activities mentioned in the list. After all a "Declamation contest" means a public speech and it's hard to imagine that being conducted online. Also, the circular calls for principals to ensure active participation.
As the Indian Express -- which has also accessed the circular -- notes, "Though the circular sent to bodies such as the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) does not state December 25 will be a working day, the activities mentioned are such that they require students to be physically present in school."
The earlier TOI report had also indicated that other CBSE schools, even private ones would be asked to participate. TOI points out that the government circular noted that "CBSE will also be organizing competitions under CBSE expression series on Good Governance on 24th & 25thDecember", which would be "open to all students affiliated to CBSE and any recognized state boards across the country".
The latest report by The Hindu indicates that even the IIMs and IITs were asked to observe Good Governance Day
"The Union Human Resource Development Ministry wrote to the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) last Thursday asking it to “instruct” all the institutions under its watch to observe Good Governance Day and send a compliance report.
A circular titled ‘Use of Technology and Innovations in Promoting Good Governance – Good Governance Day 25 posted on the AICTE website on the same day (December 11) but the link appears to have been removed after the row over the Government trying to eclipse the significance of Christmas with another event."
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Updated Date: Dec 16, 2014 14:29:30 IST