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Congress, other groups lash out at Sarma’s statement on madrasas, tols

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Guwahati, Feb 13 The opposition Congress and other organisations including those from the Muslim community on Thursday lashed out against Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statement that the state-run madrasas and Sanskrit tols (centres of learning) would be closed down.

State Congress chief Ripun Bora dismissed Biswa Sarma’s views as “personal”, but warned that if the government took any decision officially, his party would oppose it in the court of law.

“This is totally undemocratic, unconstitutional. It is Biswa Sarma’s personal view, because the cabinet has not taken any decision. He has deliberately made the remarks to create confusion, and divert the attention of the people from the real issues,” Bora told IANS.

Sarma on Wednesday said the state-run madrasas and Sanskrit tols would be wound up within the next three to four months and the teachers would get their salaries sitting at home till they reach the age of retirement. He said there were 1,200 madrasas and 200 Sanskrit tols run by the state government, and they would be converted into high and higher secondary schools and give lessons on regular courses.

“It is not the government’s obligation to provide funds to institutions to teach religious courses, Arabic or any such language.”

The minister, however, said the government has no problem with the private madrasas and Sanskrit tols which can be there, but “we will ensure they operate within a regulatory framekwork by introducing a new law”.

“If someone is teaching religion using his or her own money then there is no problem, but if Holy Quran is taught using state funds, then we have to teach Gita and Bible as well. The state government is a secular entity. It cannot fund organisations involved in religious teaching,” he said.

Bora said in a secular and democratic country, one cannot talk in such manner.

“As far as madrasas and Sanskrit tols are concerned, it is not a fact that only religious education is imparted there.

“The madrasas are under the Secondary Board of Education Assam (SEBA). They teach the course prescribed by SEBA. The students there learn science, mathematics, education, as also computer. Only Arabic is taught as a subject. What is the harm if pupil learn Arabic?” he asked.

Similarly, Sanskrit is the original Indian language, and the entire soul, culture and civilisation of India came from Sanskrit, Bora said.

“We condemn his remarks. If the government takes this decision officially, then Congress will oppose it in the court of law because Article 28 and 30 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that there is no bar in teaching any language,” he added.

The Assam State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an organisation of Islamic scholars, has also threatened to take legal action.

Maulana Fazlul Karim, state secretary of the Jamiat, argued that by learning Arabic as a foreign language, many students grow up to become doctors and engineers and get jobs in the Middle East countries.

India

Maha Congress to agitate for Arnab’s arrest

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Arnab Goswami

Terming the recent revelations of WhatsApp chats of two media personalities Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta as “extremely serious and violative of the Official Secret Act, 1923” the Maharashtra Congress on Thursday announced state-wide protests on Friday (Jan. 22) demanding their arrest and prosecution.

State party President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said that the chats between the Republic TV Editor and the ex-BARC head had some serious revelations related to national security and pertaining to the retaliatory surgical strike by India in Balakot, Pakistan.

“How did Goswami get the information on the air-strikes of Feb. 23, 2019, three days before the action was taken? Who is the ‘Big Name’ in the government that he refers to? With whom did Goswami share such sensitive information that is violative of the OSA, 1923,” Thorat demanded.

The Congress leader pointed out that the WhatsApp chats indicate how Goswami enjoys very close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party government, many ministers or high-ranking officials have helped him out by flouting rules, and the Pulwama attack pointed to vested interests of some big functionary.

“The chats mention that ‘he will win elections’ on the issue – so did the BJP use the martyrs’ sacrifice only to win polls? What is the connivance between Goswami and the BJP which is dangerous not only for the press freedom, but also the country’s security and democracy,” Thorat pointed out.

Claiming that Goswami is not ‘the only culprit’, the Congress chief alleged that many Central ministers have violated their oath to help the Republic TV chief earn commercial gains, and action must be taken against all those who were party to the entire episode.

Referring to the ongoing TRP manipulations scam and Republic TV illegally using Doordarshan’s satellite frequencies causing huge losses to Prasar Bharati, Thorat said even after DD lodged a complaint, the then Information & Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore failed to take cognizance of the matter and set it aside.

“This shows that Goswami enjoys great support from within the BJP government is it the reason he has been spared of action despite misappropriation of public funds,” Thorat asked.

Last week, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had said that the state government will seek legal opinion to examine how it could proceed against the Republic TV head in the matter which concerned national security.

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Australian envoy calls on Punjab, Haryana CMs

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Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh, Jan 21 (IANS) Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell on Thursday called on Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana here to explore cooperation in agriculture, water and education.

“Valuable insights from Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar-ji on his key priorities for Haryana and opportunities for greater Australia-Haryana cooperation in agribusiness, water and education,” O’Farrell said in a tweet.

He said he met officials of key universities in Punjab and Haryana to explore ways to strengthen education partnerships between institutions in Australia and north India as India’s new National Education Policy is being implemented.

On his meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, he tweeted: “Thank you Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh-ji for a great discussion on how we can revitalise our economies post COVID-19, and further deepen our cooperation in agriculture, water and education.”

The envoy said he also enjoyed conversation about Amarinder Singh’s grandfather Maharaja Bhupinder Singh’s and father Maharaja Yadavinder Singh’s contribution to the Indian cricket — one played several first-class cricket matches for India and the other played a Test match in 1934.

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Counter negative propaganda against govt projects: Goa CM

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Pramod Sawant

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Thursday urged engineering students to counter the negative commentary against the government’s development projects on social and mass media platforms, saying it was important to counter negative propaganda with facts.

Citing a case in point, Sawant said that the Sterlite-promoted Goa Tamnar Transmission Project Limited was crucial to the coastal state’s power needs in the coming years and yet it was facing opposition from several quarters.

“People are opposing projects everywhere. The Tamnar project has seen opposition too. As you know it is a 400 KV line which is coming from Karnataka to Goa. If the Tamnar (power) line is not drawn over the next two years, then we will not be able to use ACs and fans,” Sawant said, while addressing a gathering of students at the Goa College of Engineering in South Goa.

“Despite knowing this fact, how many of us are talking about it positively? We are only listening to negativity. It is our duty to write and talk on social media and electronic media. I am not even urging you to speak in favour of the government. Just state facts. You know the facts. The layman in a village does not know facts. He opposes (such projects) just because someone has planted it in his head,” Sawant said.

“Being engineers you know the realistic situation of power (availability) in Goa. We expect that facts should be placed before the people who do not have any real information about the project. We expect these comments from you on issues related to the Tamnar, rail and road projects or IIT,” the Chief Minister said.

A rail, road expansion project as well as an inter-state power transmission line venture have faced opposition politically as well as from civil society groups, who have claimed that the projects are being pushed at an “express pace” to facilitate movement of coal imported through the Mormugao Port Trust facility in Goa to steel mills in Karnataka’s Bellary district and nearby areas.

Earlier this month, the Goa government was also forced to scrap its move to acquire land to set up an IIT-Goa campus in Melaulim village in North Goa, following protests.

Sawant said that if Goa is unable to provide land for an IIT, it would be a great loss for the coming generations.

“We had taken the IIT project to Melaulim with good intentions. There may have been opposition to the IIT project in Melaulim, but have we explained to the people why Goa needs an IIT?” Sawant said.

“We will face a great loss for the next 25 years. The next generation will blame us for it. If the CM alone speaks on this, it will be attributed to political motives by the opposition,” he added.

–IANS

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