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War of words: Smriti Irani, ToI battle it out on Twitter

A war of words broke out Monday morning on Twitter between Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and the Times of India newspaper. 

The Monday edition of the paper published a report saying the HRD ministry had issued a circular to government-run schools asking them to stay open on Christmas Day on account of a proposed ‘Good Governance Day’ and to hold a quiz competition. 

(READ THE FULL CIRCULAR HERE)

HRD Minister Smriti Irani took to the popular micro-blogging platform shortly after denying any such directive, saying all schools would be closed for Christmas and that the “voluntary” essay competition was to be held online only. 

She also called upon the newspaper to publish a retraction on Tuesday in  bold, claiming that the newspaper should have checked with her or the Education Secretary first. 

The reporter who published the article responded with a photo of the circular on his personal Twitter account. 

The circular, was still available on the Navodaya Vidyalaya’s site at the time of publishing this Business Standard report, implies that students’ would have to be physically present in school, given the nature of the activities planned. Moreover, regional officers were urged to send in photographs or videos of the day’s events at the school, belying Irani’s contention that it was an online-only initiative. 

The circular, which has been sent to all Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV) under the signature of G S Bothyal, commissioner of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, has asked them to hold the quiz competition as part of Good Governance Day to mark the birthdays of BJP leader and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well as of the late Madan Mohan Malaviya, a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, which is a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate and a forerunner of today’s Bharatiya Janata Party. 

The day will reportedly be spent in various activities, including declamation on topics related to good governance, quiz competition, screening of documentaries and films on best practices in good governance, among others. 

The circular also says the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) would organise competitions under the CBSE Expression Series on good governance on December 24 and 25. 

The CBSE initiative, the directive said, would be open to “all students affiliated to CBSE or any recognised state board across the country”. 

The CBSE version will be open to three categories of students – Classes 1-5, 6-8 and 9-12 – and will include essays as well as one-act plays. However, these can be submitted online as well as offline, the circular said. The best 36 entries will be awarded Rs 2,500 and a certificate, while all participants with a valid email id would be given a participation certicate. .

Amidst Opposition uproar over these reports, the Press Trust of India has reported that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha, “The report is factually false.”

“HRD Minister Smriti Irani has informed me that no such instruction has been issued, no school will function (that day). Only an online essay competition (is being organised). That’s all,” Jaitley said. 

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