May 15, 2006

Orissa: Sanskrit schools facing closure
By Debasis Tripathy

Hundreds of Sanskrit schools are going to be closed in Orissa. In the coming academic session, a large number of Sanskrit teachers will lose their job and thousands of students will be debarred from learning our great traditional language—Sanskrit—due to the faulty academic policy of the government. This dismal scenario infuses a sense of dissatisfaction among the Sanskrit-lovers and academicians.

According to sources in School and Mass Education Department of the state government, the government issued a circular [vide No. IX SEM CBS (8-01) 2005 24913/SEM, dated 16.12.05] to the Secretary of Board of Secondary Education directing him to introduce a new scheme for studies in secondary schools. In this scheme, the teaching of Sanskrit in classes VIII, IX and X has been rendered. In the circular, the government lays emphasis on vocational education like agriculture economy. Since a large portion of Orissa’s population depend on agriculture for their livelihood, teaching the management and prospects of agriculture will be a boon for those students, who belong to agro-based families. But, in the process of promoting agricultural courses, languages like Sanskrit, Oriya, Hindi and Persian, which are being taught as the third language in classes VIII, IX and X, will suffer a great deal, as total marks in these subjects are going to be reduced from 100 to 50. It is being done only to fix up the full marks of the subject “agriculture economy”, i.e. 100 marks. “By doing this, the government has allegedly reduced the importance and dignity of those languages in general and Sanskrit in particular,” says Shri Bipin Bihari Rath, senior advocate and president of Orissa Sanskrit Mahasangh.

Orissa has been the land of Sanskrit education since Vedic ages. The cult of Lord Jagannath and His temple were the centre of Sanskrit education, for which one Sanskrit university was established at Jagannath Puri. Karmakand and Sanskrit grammar are the points of attraction for many who earn their livelihood by performing rituals and teaching Sanskrit grammar in schools. In brief, Sanskrit education has been the lifeline for many who depend on it. But it is the irony of their fates that the government issues an order to exclude Sanskrit from the list of compulsory subjects, taught in secondary courses. And in many places, it has been made an optional subject.

Shri Rath, while speaking to media at Cuttack, said: “We do not object to other modern professional subjects like agricultural economics, proposed to be taught in schools, but we do resist the way it is going to be implemented. If they want to teach this subject, there is nothing wrong in it. But who gave them the right to kill Sanskrit by reducing its importance among the courses of studies? It is one of the dishonest plans of the government to vanish Sanskrit from the school syllabus.”

While talking to Organiser, Shri Rath came down heavily upon the anti-Sanskrit policy of the state government. He said since independence Sanskrit has been fighting a battle for its existence. “In Orissa, the government has been showing a step-motherly attitude towards Sanskrit colleges, most of which exist only on papers. And as such, the Sanskrit education has come to a standstill,” he adds.

However, Shri Rath points out that on the other hand, the education department appears to be adamant to comply with the order of its big bosses—which is going to cause a clash between the Sanskrit-lovers and the state government.

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