Assam takes a bold education initiative

Similarly, Sanskrit tols (institutes) will be converted into centres of learning and research in Indian culture and civilisation. The transition will be completed in six months.

Published: 08th November 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th November 2020 03:34 PM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

Assam is the first state in independent India wherein state-run madrasas (over 600 in number) will cease to receive Rs 260 crore annually and become regular high schools under the Secondary Education Board. Similarly, Sanskrit tols (institutes) will be converted into centres of learning and research in Indian culture and civilisation. The transition will be completed in six months.

Madrasas that do not receive government subsidies or opt out of this dispensation will function as before. Justifying this transformational decision, Himanta Biswa Sarma, state education minister, pointed out that in a secular democracy, public money could not be squandered on teaching holy texts such as the Koran, Gita, Bible and Granth Sahib, or imparting religious beliefs and practices. Hopefully, these schools will no longer be called madrasas, helping the students step out of their educational exclusiveness. 

In a country where secularism is a scam, this decision would appear blatantly communal. Since 1947, almost all political parties have been wooing Muslims for votes to win elections and to that end, investing huge amount of public money in their welfare in a wholly discriminatory manner. This situation is unlikely to change. But what distresses most is when states fund madrasas that indoctrinate students at an impressionable age in spiritual obscurantism and imbibing a unidimensional vision of their role and responsibility in a democracy.

As a result, madrasas have become educational ghettoes churning out minds unfit to contribute to the society in the field of medicine, science, technology, humanities, etc. The central and state governments want to modernise education in madrasas, but lack courage and sincerity to follow Assam’s example. In a clever move, they have devised a mechanism that appeases Muslim clergy and also promises to provide progressive education.

The leading culprit is government of India which pays Rs 1,138 crore annually to teach science and social studies, apart from Koran and Arabic in madrasas across the country. Uttar Pradesh pays salary to 27,000 madrasa teachers, while Maharashtra plans to raise the current subsidy to Rs 20 crore in next two years. Rajasthan not only pays salary to madrasa teachers but has also also allocated Rs 7 crore for their infrastructure development. Karnataka spends Rs 50 crore on modernising education of its madrasas. 

Kerala is one step ahead. It gives salary, pension, interest-free housing loans and other financial aids to madrasa teachers. West Bengal has earmarked over Rs 4,000 crore for development of madrasas, a jump of 335  times since the days of the Communists. Thankfully, Assam has decided not to barter modern education of madrasa students for votes but help them develop a broader and more inclusive outlook at the school level.                    

Amar Bhushan
Former special secretary,  Research and Analysis Wing


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