Thursday September 19, 2019

Ramayana, Gita should be taught in schools: Culture minister

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New Delhi: The Ramayana and the Gita are not religious texts and should be taught in schools, according to union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.

Sharma said that including the Ramayana and the Gita in school curriculum was an attempt to inculcate spiritual and cultural values in children.

“It is an attempt to teach spiritual values to children. Ramayana is a way of life and it tells stories about many relationships – son and father, wife and husband and brother and brother. Likewise Gita is the knowledge given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. These are not religious texts,” Sharma told IANS in an interview here.

The minister further said that the importance of these texts are recognised even in countries like Indonesia and Mauritius. “Ramayana is a great book and its importance is being recognised in Indonesia and even Mauritius. These countries have set up Ramayana centres. It’s high time we recognise their value,” added Sharma.

Denying reports of him saying that the Bible and the Quran are not central to India’s soul, Sharma said that he respects all religions and had been misquoted. However, he stressed that while the Bible and the Quran are religious texts, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are not.

“I respect all religions. Bible is a religious text of Christians and Quran is a religious text of Muslims. Gita never advocates the worship of any God or religion. They are karma granths. But Bible and Quran preach to worship a particular God and religion. They are specific religious text for religions,” said Sharma.

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb meeting with Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture during the Australian Business in India Week.
Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma

The minister had recently stoked controversy by saying that western culture is making inroads into Indian culture and polluting it.

Talking about the foreign culture, the minister said that young people should learn Indian languages like Sanskrit and Hindi to fight the “cultural pollution”.

Sharma said that he wanted students to emphasise on learning Indian languages. “It is a shame that students learn German and Spanish before learning Sanskrit or Hindi. I would like to term it a cultural pollution. Hindi is an optional language in many schools now. Sanskrit and Hindi should be made compulsory in all schools,” he said.

Recently, the culture ministry’s decision to revamp Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) sparked controversy as Congress leaders and many historians termed it an attempt to tamper with India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s legacy. Contesting the charge, the minister said, “We are trying to preserve and acquire documents of nationalist leaders of modern India. The museum is not about one person,” Sharma said.

The ministry also has plans to re-examine the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as the director of NMML, the minister said. “There are certain irregularities in the appointment. The appointment was made despite the EC’s order to the Culture ministry on May 12, 2014 asking it to postpone the appointment of Rangarajan,” the minister said.

Rangarajan’s appointment was approved by the UPA on May 14, two days after the last day of polling – when the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct ceases to be operational. The minister added that Rangarajan took charge as director on May 19, 2014. “We will re-examine his appointment,” the minister said.

-By Preetha Nair (IANS)

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Indian Government Spent Nearly Rs 4Kcr on Swachh Bharat Info, Education

“The Swachh Bharat mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world’s poorest."

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swachhata abhiyan
The government's much publicised Swachh Bharat Mission -- which aims to enhance the level of sanitation in India and make the country open defecation free (ODF). Flickr

To make the Swachh Bharat Mission a success, India mobilised huge resources for information, education and communication (IEC) activities, with a new report estimating that the cash expenditure by the government, private sector, and the development community to be between Rs 3,500-4,000 crore in five years since the programme’s launch.

Of this cash spend, around 20 per cent was spent by the erstwhile Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, around 35 per cent by the state sanitation departments, around 25 per cent by other government ministries, and around 20 per cent by the private sector and the development sector collectively, said the report by consultancy firm Dalberg Advisors.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the government has shown remarkable ability to leverage resources across the public sector, private sector, media, and civil society, to make sanitation a mass movement in India.

In fact, the study estimates that the Swachh Bharat Mission mobilised a spend equivalent worth Rs 22,000-Rs 26,000 crore in monetary and non-monetary information, education and communication activities.

The researchers reached this figure by identifying the key activities and costs by different actors, modelling the number of “exposures” created, and estimating the investment required if the government were to “buy” these exposures in an efficient market.

An average person living in rural India was exposed to between 2,500-3,300 SBM related messages over the last five years, according to the study titled “An assessment of the reach and value of IEC activities under Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen)”.

Young Indians
Young Indians want to strengthen the ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiative. Wikimedia Commons

A large majority of these messages were routed via newly constructed toilets, mass media, and the

Swachh Bharat logo. Other significant contributors included ambient media such as wall murals and hoardings, and other conventional channels such as inter-personal communication (IPC), digital media, and cinema.

Since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014, over 10 crore households toilets have been built in the country, leading to a significant improvement in sanitation coverage and reduction in open defecation.

Since 2014, engagement from the top political and government leadership, especially the Prime Minister, induced catalytic participation across segments, giving the cause of sanitation consistent attention and focus.

This translated into a mission mode approach where a range of government ministries, private sector organisations, the philanthropic ecosystem, civil society, and the media and entertainment sector participated to bring sanitation messaging and awareness to citizens at significant scale.

Also Read: Motorola Launches its First Smart TV in India

When Modi visits the US later this month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will honour the success of Swachh Bharat that has transformed lives around the country.

“Globally, sanitation-related diseases kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of five every year. Yet despite its importance, sanitation has not received significant attention. A lot of governments are not willing to talk about it, in part because there are not easy solutions.

Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do. There is still a long way to go, but the impacts of access to sanitation in India are already being realised,” the Gates Foundation said in a statement.

“The Swachh Bharat mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world’s poorest.” (IANS)