Senior Congress leader and former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat slammed the move, saying "there is no need for the BJP to divert focus from crucial issues in education to that of chanting mantras, and singing vande mataram in schools to create controversies.”
The Uttarakhand school education department is all set to instruct its 12 lakh students across the 18,000-odd schools to chant the Bhojan Mantra (a mantra for food) before having the mid-day meals. The Sanskrit mantra will also be painted on the walls of the kitchens in all schools.
In July first week, during a review meeting of the school education department, Uttarakhand School Education Minister Arvind Pandey and the officials in the meeting suggested that the daily chanting of the Bhojan Mantra be incorporated in the school curriculum.
R. K. Kunwar, Director, School Education, said, “In the review meeting, the school education minister and several officials of the school education department suggested that the Bhojan Mantra be chanted before children eat the mid-day meals. We are planning to send out instructions for it to the concerned offices. However, chanting the mantra or painting it on the kitchen walls won’t be compulsory. It will be left to the discretion of the school authorities and the students.”
Kunwar didn’t specify to The Indian Express what the Bhojan Mantra is. However, he said that several decisions were taken during the review meeting, including those for incorporating Yoga practice in the daily curriculum, informing students about the “great Indian leaders”, saying prayers in Kumaoni and Garhwali languages in the schools that fall in the Kumaon and Garhwal regions of the state, respectively, and starting the school day with either the Gayatri Mantra, or the Saraswati Vandana.
Senior Congress leader and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat said, “The government schools in Uttarakhand are in a bad condition. There is a need to focus on the quality of education in the schools. There is no need for the BJP to divert focus from crucial issues in education to that of chanting mantras, and singing vande mataram in schools to create controversies.”
However, Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt said, “In many schools, the day starts with the Saraswati Vandana (prayer for Goddess Saraswati). However, the Bhojan Mantra is not chanted in any school. Through this initiative, we are trying to familiarise the students with their culture and tradition. I don’t see why this could be objectionable.”
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