GN Bureau | April 23, 2014
Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of St Xavier's College, Mumbai, has triggered a political storm with his email sent out to students of the premier institution, criticising the ‘Gujarat model of development’.
The note, which is also put up on the college website (read it on the homepage here) comes just before Mumbai goes to the polls on Thursday (April 24).
It says: “... The Gujarat model has been highlighted for our consideration. That is very apt because it puts in stark contrast two current views. Is the growth of big business, the making of huge profits, the achievement of high production – what we seek? Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that make up India?”
The BJP is seen as hard-selling its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s development work in the state as the chief minister to come to power at the centre.
While the BJP and its allies – as indeed many others, including educationists and civil society activists – are crying foul, saying a teacher has no business telling his students whom to vote for, another section finds nothing wrong with it, contending that the role of a teacher is much more than finishing the course material for the academic year.
Asked why he sent out the controversial email Mascharenas, who teaches development anthropology in the college, told Mumbai Mirror newspaper that he was not campaigning for any particular party. "All I wanted to convey to students, many of whom are first-time voters, was to vote and make an informed choice. The Election Commission has been proactive in urging people to vote and our college had also staged a campaign to get people registered for voting," he told the newspaper.
In this light, should teachers stick to their role of a tutor, focussing on course material and the blackboard, or should they, like Mascharenas says he has done, broaden the horizon and become educators and explain to students what is right and wrong before asking them to make the right choice that they deem fit?
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