NCERT books revision: NCERT textbooks now carry a toned down commentary on Indian politics and politicians in its satirical cartoons after the revision exercise undertaken by the body for the first time since 2007. The development comes six years after the NCERT dropped six controversial cartoons from political science textbooks. The Research and Training educational organisation has now made changes in the rest of the books to make them more acceptable. The cartoons removed from the textbooks were termed are “offensive” and not suitable for fledgeling young minds. This step has been taken by NCERT after it faced flak for its content from some political parties in the country.
It all started back in 2012, when the then opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), protested against the use of such political cartoons and accused the UPA-II (2009 to 2014) government for including such content in the school textbooks. According to an Indian Express report, it is because of this protest that the Union government led by then PM Manmohan Singh had decided to set up up a committee, headed by former UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat, to review the content.
While protesting against the political cartoons in the NCERT books, the opposition parties had stated that political satire was not suitable for the young minds. The committee headed by Thorat then recommended the deletion of 20 cartoons from the books. However, the NCERT agreed to drop six cartoons from political science textbooks of classes 9, 10, 11 and 12. And now the political commentary has further been toned down to suit the content of the books.
What changes have been made in the books?
The revised NCERT textbook for Class 10 Political Science, titled – Democratic Politics-II, retained a cartoon by The Hindu’s Surendra, according to The Indian Express. The cartoon is located in the books’ chapter 5 — Popular Struggles and Movements. The caption of the cartoon that shows the bureaucracy hindering implementation of the Right to Information Act earlier stated: “The Right to Information Act is one of the recent legislation passed by Parliament. Who is shown as obstructing the implementation of the legislation?.” It now says, “Many democratic governments provide the Right to Information (RTI) to the citizens. The RTI Act, 2005 is a landmark legislation passed by our Parliament. Under this Act, citizens can seek information from government offices pertaining to different activities. Do you think the cartoon exaggerates the obstructionist role of bureaucracy in the implementation of the Act?”
Similarly, Chapter 6 of the same test book carrued a cartoon that included two characters Munni and Unni. These characters were used as a teaching tool by the NCERT to ask searching questions through which a class discussion can be initiated. While the earlier comments in the cartoon said, “Okay, granted that we can’t live without political parties. But tell me how do we live with the kind of political parties we have?” The revised cartoon now says, “Okay, granted that we can’t live without political parties. But tell me on what grounds do people support a political party?”
The History textbook of Class VI has talked about six schools of India philosophy: Vaishesika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimansa and Vedanta or Uttara Mimansa. These are believed to have been founded by sages Konada, Gotama, Kapila, Patanjali, Jaimini and Vyasa. It also has a chapter on Ayurveda.
The Class 6 Science book has defined Yoga as “an invaluable gift of the ancient Indian tradition”. The Science textbook of Class 8 states “In ancient India, our ancestors performed methodical observations of the sky. Their knowledge of astronomy was highly advanced for their time. Passage of the Sun, stars, moon and planets in the sky helped them to devise calendars and almanacks.”