The principal of St Xavier's college, Dr Frazer Mascarenhas in Mumbai has written a strongly-worded email to students of the college, where he has criticised the Gujarat Model of Development while praising UPA's Rojgar Yojana and Food Security bill. The email has also been up on the college's website, which can be seen here.
The message which is titled, "In the Background of Elections - The Development Debate", begins by talking about what constitutes Human development in the context of the elections.
It goes on to reads, " The Gujarat model has been highlighted for our consideration...Is the growth of big business, the making of huge profits, the achievement of high production – what we seek? Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that make up India?"
The email then says that Gujarat has been good for big businesses but where quality of life is concerned, the state has not done well.
The email says, "All the Human Development Index indicators and the cultural polarisation of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years. Take the example of education: schools for the ordinary populace show abject neglect with a very high dropout rate in the last 10 years. Higher Education has not been allowed to move forward... Gujarat has also been the worst performer in settling claims and distributing title deeds to tribal people and other forest dwellers, as shown by the latest data put out by the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry. Till 2013, the State, with 15% tribal population, settled only 32 per cent of the claims, the lowest rate in the country."
The email then goes on to contrast this with the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act, and says that while these schemes have been dismissed as election sops, they are necessary to the wellbeing of citizens. The email also goes on to mention the Right to Information act.
It reads, "some of our best social scientists like Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have supported these as necessary in the emergency economic situation the country and the world is facing. The country is grateful that committed activists like Aruna Roy and Shailesh Gandhi have worked with the Government to initiate and sustain the Right to Information Act which makes accountability possible."
The email ends by pointing out that the elections pose a choice for the students, and asks them to choose well: "The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy. Support people who pledge to work to take Human Development Indicators higher and who commit themselves to a pluralistic culture in diverse India. "
While the email doesn't name either the Congress party or Narendra Modi, it is clearly advocating a vote for the former and against the BJP.
The email has obviously raised questions given its timing and tone. Given that it came from the Prinicipal's official email ID and was sent to all students, some are questioning the propriety of this kind of political advocacy.
A parent of a student told Indian Express, ""After reading the mail, any one can say that it is targeted against Narendra Modi. Not that we are supporting Modi, but why must a college principal write such an email to students, that may influence them. I was really surprised."
A professor told Times of India , "Sending such an email to students just days before Mumbai goes to polls, it looks like it is campaigning for certain political party while defaming another."
Defending himself, Mascharenas told Mumbai Mirror, "I have laid out certain criteria such as human development indicators, corruption, inclusive development and the environment for students to think about and make a choice. As an educational administrator, I only urge students to vote and make an informed choice."
But the email has already drawn a sharp response from the BJP's Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar who is calling it a violation of the election code.
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Updated Date: Apr 23, 2014 08:49:59 IST