The new union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ started his career as a teacher in the RSS affiliated Saraswati Shishu Mandir. He is said to have authored 35 books and has a PhD from Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University.
Pokhriyal, surprisingly or not so surprisingly, has been chosen to head the HRD ministry at a time when the Government is about to release its New Education Policy (NEP).
On Friday, as he took charge of a ministry that is entrusted with the task of moulding the future of country’s millions of students, officials handed over the draft of the much-awaited New Education Policy (NEP) to the union minister.
The policy, an ambitious project of the previous Modi government, is expected to be announced in the first 100 days of the new Government.
A committee headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan had been formed to draft the policy by the HRD Ministry previously headed by Prakash Javadekar.
Pokhriyal, a former chief minister of Uttarakhand and an MP from Haridwar, is known to have made several controversial statements in the past, at one time saying that astrology is the greatest of sciences.
“Jyotish” (astrology) is the greatest of all sciences before which all other branches of science are “dwarfs”, he had said adding, “I understand that the world’s first atomic bomb experiment was done on this very land by Rishi Kanad.”
In the Lok Sabha in December 2014, while participating in a debate on the School of Planning and Architecture Bill he had said with a flourish, “ If the science, the maths, the knowledge to transplant a lopped off head back on the body existed, it was in Hindustan alone.”
The bill was moved by the then HRD minister Smriti Irani.
“Jyotish (astrology) is the science that could calculate lakhs of years back. It must be promoted. That is why I want to say that astrology is the number one science for the entire world. There should be a discussion on this,” he added.
During the same debate, speaking before Nishank Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy had spoken of scientific temperament.
Roy said, “A scientific temper cannot be attained through either astrology or mythology. Science is a system which is certain and systematic. In science we say that unless something can be proved experimentally that is not accepted as truth.”
“Now, the Prime Minister goes on saying that in ancient India Ganesha’s head was attached by plastic surgery. We all worship Ganpati Bappa but that does not mean that we all agree that there was plastic surgery done at that time,” he added.
“The HRD minister may have her own preference but when the HRD minister who is to look after all our institutes of higher learning, goes and spends four hours with an astrologer, it sends a wrong message.
“On the one hand we are sending Mangalyaan. We are sending a man to the moon. On the other hand we are going to astrologers, babas and what not. That is creating a wrong impression,” Roy added.