Govt needs to learn good governance

The Ministry for Human Resources Development under the Modi government surely needs a lesson in good governance, going by the unseemly mess and needless confusion it has created on the issue of “Good Governance” to be observed on Christmas Day.

In a move that was shocking as it smacked of insensitivity and the lack of a secular spirit, a HRD ministry missive directed CBSE schools to hold a slew of activities on December 25 as Good Governance Day to mark the birthday of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the birth anniversary of freedom fighter and educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya. To take part in the activities students would have had to go to school on Christmas, which effectively meant they would have to forego a holiday, the most important for the Christian community in a calendar year.

The resulting howls of dismay and display of anger across the nation forced the government to back down, and the HRD ministry eventually whittled the activity down to an online essay competition which students can take part from their homes if they feel up to it.

Now, what is shocking is that such a diktat was at all issued in the first place. December 25 has been a holiday for Christmas for years and is also the season when most schools shut down for an extended vacation. Why did the mandarins have to unnecessarily meddle with something that has been working fine for all these years? Secondly, what do school students have to do with good governance? Doesn’t that fall under the ambit of government officials and elected representatives? 

The entire exercise smacks of a more sinister motive, which is to dilute the importance of Christmas Day and make schools work on the pretext of good governance. This is consistent with several other communally-tinged developments in the country since the Modi government assumed power.

Delhi is seeing a rise in communal tension between the Muslim and the Hindu communities leading to violence in some areas, the controversial “ghar vapsi” (return home), or religious conversion programme organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Uttar Pradesh, the incendiary communal speeches of some central ministers and moves to saffronise education are indicators that the Christmas fiasco is not a one-off instance.

For the electorate, which voted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power believing in his development agenda, these are deviations that are bound to dent his credibility. If Vajpayee had been in good health and active, he would have been the first one to shoot down the proposal to mix up Christmas Day with good governance and his birthday.

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