Every year on September 5th schools across India celebrate Teacher's day with great vigour and enthusiasm. Teacher's day celebrations began during the presidential tenure of academic philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who served as India's second president from 1962-67. It started when a few followers of him asked to celebrate his birthday and instead he asked them to dedicate his birthday for teachers and celebrate it as teacher's day.
Every year on this day, students across all the schools dress up and pretend to be teachers and teachers in turn pretend to be students and fun events are organised for all the teachers, but this year things were a bit different. A directive from Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) asked all the schools to observe this day as Guru Utsav and make necessary arrangements to enable the students to hear the Prime Minister's speech. This move created a lot of controversy particularly among the southern parties like DMK and the government's allies like PMK, MDMK questioning the apparent sanskritization of Teacher's day. The opposition also questioned the government's move to make it mandatory and extend the school hours beyond the regular hours to enable them to hear the prime minister's speech. In its defence the MHRD replied saying that the orders were not mandatory and that Guru Utsav was merely an essay writing competition. But why did this move snowball into such a major controversy. Let's take a look at the positives and negatives.
On the negative side renaming the day from Teacher's day to Guru Utsav all of a sudden could've been avoided since the government has already been on a collision course with the southern parties with the Hindi order directive issued in May and the observation of Sanskrit week in July. The Prime Minister addressing the students in itself a first was not a bad idea but the timing was certainly questionable. Asking the students to stay back after their regular school hours not only affects the students but also the parents and ironically the teachers on a day when they were supposed to be under less burden and stress. In addition to this since most schools lacked the basic infrastructure like benches and rooms, setting up special TVs/ Computers/Radios was also a major challenge for the school organizers since the Government did not provide any funds for the same. As a result many schools missed out on it. Another charge which the opposition levelled against the government was that there was a political motive behind such a move. He also could've addressed all the Teacher's and listened to their problems and could've addressed the students on Children's day i.e. 14th November.
There were a lot of positives as well. For the first time in Independent India a Prime Minister directly addressed school students across the country on the occasion and importance of teacher's day. The Prime Minister in his address laid emphasis on the importance of teachers in a human's life. He also stressed on the fact that in India teaching was a dying profession and the lack of teachers in India. He encouraged students to become teachers and make India a country that exports teachers. He also stressed on the fact that students play an important role in nation building and have the Country's future s in their hands. After the address he also took questions from students from across the country which was again a first for any PM. He answered all of them with great enthusiasm sharing his own experiences as a child. The students though they were getting late were very enthusiastic about the event and felt very happy that the Prime minister had taken a special interest on them. They were inspired by his words and were extremely delighted with the responses he gave. The teachers were also pleased that the PM stressed on the importance of teachers and felt that their contributions were finally being recognised.
In conclusion I would like to say that though the government could have done away with the naming controversy and addressed the students during the school hours rather than after hours, the motive behind his address cannot be questioned. Also since India is a very young country, the PM inadvertently scored political points as many students who were inspired by his speech would turn 18 and become eligible voters come the next general elections in 2019.