The Anna University has included ‘philosophy’ as a subject for the undergraduate engineering students in its new regulation from the academic year 2019-20. The topics in the subject include Hindu scriptures like Upanishadas, Bhagavad Gita and Vedas. Another optional subject—personality development through life enlightenment skills—has completely incorporated Gita in the syllabus. The bachelor degree students of information technology course will be studying the subject in their third semester from the next academic year.
Several political parties, academicians and students’ organisations have condemned the move by the university, saying that it goes against the secular principles.
TEACHERS, STUDENTS, WRITERS’ FORUM OPPOSE MOVE
Anna University is the premier technical university in the state and the announcement of the new regulation has attracted widespread condemnation from across the sections of the society. A joint statement by the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Federation (AIFUCTO), Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers’ and Artists’ Association (TNPWAA) said that they stand against the introduction of such a subject in engineering courses.
The statement said, “It is unfair to include a religious book followed by one particular religion in a university syllabus. This will offend the beliefs of the followers of other religions. Such religious books can be taught in theosophical colleges, but not in a university or college, which is against the secular principles framed by the Indian constitution.”
WILL FURTHER REDUCE INTAKE?
The demand for engineering studies has been on a continuous decline in the past few years in Tamil Nadu. The self-financing colleges are having tough time attracting students due to the lack of prospects of employment and a number of colleges have withdrawn several courses. “The inclusion of Bhagavad Gita in the engineering curriculum would further alienate the students from pursuing engineering courses and hence, all such subjects should be immediately withdrawn by the university,” the statement added.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), in a Facebook statement published by its president M K Stalin, called for the withdrawal of the subject and demanded that the process of imposing religious beliefs on other students be stopped.
The Tamil Nadu state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said in a statement, “The state has witnessed strong protests against the draft National Education Policy (NEP), but the state government has shown high inclination towards implementing it even before the act is being implemented by the union government. The present move of the Anna University is in tune with the recommendations in the NEP which is against the secular principles. The university has acted as per the instructions of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) on the inclusion of subjects. The university must withdraw the inclusion from the curriculum at the earliest.”
UPANISHADS AND GITA WITH SCIENCE
The subject philosophy—that the university is introducing—has mixed science and mythology much to the dismay of the students and the academicians. It carries a credit score of three, with three contact classes per week. The topics in the five chapters of the subject include Knowledge (Vidya) Versus Ignorance (Avidya), Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, ‘Nasidiya Sukta’ in Relation With Big Bang Theory, Space as the Final Goal, Udgitha, Body And Speech, Siksha Valli, Taittriya Upanishad, Krishna’s Advice to Arjuna on How to Conquer Mind, Rtam (Truth) and Satyam (Eternal Truth), the Different Chakras and the Stages of Sublimation and Philosophy of Yoga and Siva for Union of Mind and Body.
The list of optional subjects include: Sanskrit for technical knowledge, stress management by yoga, unnat bharat abhiyan and personality development through life enlightenment skills along with Indian Constitution, pedagogy studies and value education. The five chapters under the subject ‘personality development through life enlightenment skills’ are titled neetisatakam-holistic development of personality, approach to day to day work and duties based on Shrimad Bhagawad Gita, personality of role model – Shrimad Bhagwad Gita.
EXCLUSION AND SAFFRONISATION
The state government led by AIADMK has been very fast when it comes to implementing the schemes proposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. The recent announcement of public examination for the students of third, fifth and eighth classes was seen a step towards implementation of NEP, but the government announced an exemption for three years from the exam after severe outcry.
The topics included under the subject philosophy do not have any relevance to the degree the student has chosen; nor does it play any role in the career development of the student. The agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of saffronisation of education—along with the proposed NEP—strongly advocates privatisation, centralisation and corporatisation of education. Such policies will result in the exclusion of the socially and economically backward communities.