‘Constitution is Our Quran, Bible & Bhagwad Gita’: Karnataka’s Primary Edu Minister Clears Air on State Anthem in Schools | Exclusive
‘Constitution is Our Quran, Bible & Bhagwad Gita’: Karnataka’s Primary Edu Minister Clears Air on State Anthem in Schools | Exclusive
Madhu Bangarappa said none of his decisions would be anti-BJP or pro-Congress, but only pro-children as he denied that the Congress was trying to push sub-nationalism ahead of polls

We live in a republic and in no manner are we dividing people on the basis of language or being vindictive, Madhu Bangarappa, Karnataka’s primary education minister, told News18 in an exclusive interview on the issue of schoolchildren being instructed to sing the state anthem. Denying allegations that the Congress government in Karnataka is pushing sub-nationalism in the run-up to the elections, Bangarappa said following the Constitution of the country was his priority.

Edited Excerpts:

Schoolchildren in Karnataka have been instructed to sing the Nada Geethe or the state anthem after the national anthem in schools. What is the purpose behind this?

We all are Indians first and so we sing the national anthem, and then we are from Karnataka. What Rashtrakavi Kuvempu has written is a very meaningful composition and it is now our official state anthem. We must be proud of the fact that our children are learning it while learning the preamble of our Constitution as well. I consider it to be a big achievement by my department that on Teachers’ Day, we introduced that around 1, 20, 00,000 children from government and government-aided school should know the preamble by heart. I am proud of the fact that they have understood the meaning and they have learned it.

We all follow different ‘dharmas’ or religion, but that is within your home. As far as state and country are concerned, nationalism is our religion as chalked out by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. In today’s political scenario, the way we see it heading — be it in terms of caste, religion, etc. — it is important that children understand the Indian Constitution as well as learn to respect the state and the country.

Critics say the Congress government in Karnataka is pushing sub-nationalism keeping the elections in mind? How do you react?

We live in a republic and in no manner are we dividing people on the basis of language or being vindictive. We are Kannadigas the day we are born and, above that, we are Indians the day we are born. The Constitution is our Quran, our Bible and our Bhagwad Gita. If we follow the Constitution, so many questions that are raised can be answered. I will always do what is best for the children of our state, going beyond party lines. None of my decisions will be anti-BJP or pro-Congress, it will only be pro-children.

What is the status of the State Education Policy that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said would be implemented after the Congress decided not to follow the NEP?

Though the SEP falls and applies more in the purview of higher education, there is a small part that will also be applicable to my department, which is primary education. Under the chairmanship of professor Sukhdev Thorat, an eminent educationist, regular meetings are being held, with higher education minister Dr MC Sudhakar leading from the frontlines. Our target was to implement it in the upcoming academic year. We had sought six to seven months since the first meeting. We want to give a guarantee to the children and parents of Karnataka that whatever changes happen through SEP, they will not affect the curriculum or education pattern that is being followed. We will ensure a seamless transition.

You just launched the new scheme of providing ragi malt to school children in government schools. As part of the diet, eggs were being given but some objected to it as they did not consume eggs. Is ragi being seen as a substitute for it?

Around 55, 55,000 children studying in government and government-aided schools are getting free milk in the morning and then the mid-day meal. We added eggs to ensure these growing children get more nutrition. Those who do not eat eggs are given another protein substitute which is chikki (peanut candy) or bananas. We do not force anybody to consume eggs if they don’t. Children get eggs twice a week, and now, with our new programme, we will be providing ragi malt to children thrice a week. This malt has a nutritious millet mix which will help strengthen children and aid in their overall cerebral and physical growth.

With CSR funding from the Sathya Sai trust, we are able to provide this for children now. We wanted to implement this in the next academic year, but I was in a hurry as such things that help children should not see any delay. Every check has been done to ensure that the food is compliant with food standards as well.

With the summer setting in, there was a concept that was first started by the Kerala government where a water bell was rung. This forces children to drink water and help them remain hydrated. Many children were found to be dehydrated especially during the hot months. The previous BJP government in Karnataka also started it. Would you be reintroducing it?

If this will help children and there is a need that is seen then I will certainly look into it. As of now, I have no complaints received of children being dehydrated. If needed we will do it, but on a general note, teachers also take good care of their students.

Karnataka being the state that paves the way in terms of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, is there a plan to introduce these subjects to children in government school as well?

I want to go on record that our leader Rahul Gandhi had written a letter to chief minister Siddaramaiah a couple of months ago that Karnataka is an AI-driven state and that it should be brought to every school level. He highlighted it was important to implement it. The CM forwarded the letter to me and asked me to chalk out a plan to introduce it. I have a vision that in the next three years, we will have a number of Karnataka Public schools (KPS) where there are several AI-connected science labs. KPS is a successful formula where bilingual teaching takes place and coaching is also imparted to children. We have 6,000 gram panchayats and we plan to have a KPS school for every two GPs. Before the next academic year, we plan to have at least 500 KPS schools with CSR funding.

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