21 political cartoons will be deleted from Indian school text books, new cartoons to be ‘tested’ first on students

Most cartoons used in political science textbooks now have been borrowed from R K Laxman and Shankar’s work in newspapers.

The Thorat committee that reviewed NCERT textbooks has not only recommended the deletion of 21 cartoons but also laid out criteria for what kind of cartoons the textbooks should have. It has suggested among various things that the cartoons should largely stick to conveying a positive message to students, focus on themes rather than personalities, and be first “tested” on students for their reactions to ensure they are not insensitive.

The committee has said that instead of borrowing cartoons from newspapers and other secondary sources, original ones must be created strictly for educational purposes. Most cartoons used in political science textbooks now have been borrowed from R K Laxman and Shankar’s work in newspapers.

Anubhuti Vishnoi  writes in a special story in The Indian Express:

Stressing the need for a positive message, the panel has recommended that if a cartoon with a negative implication has to be necessarily used, it must be balanced with a positive-message cartoon on the same subject.

The recommendation against focus on personalities follows the offence taken by MPs at cartoons on Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and a range of other political leaders from A B Vajpayee to Lal Bahadur Shastri and B R Ambedkar. The committee has recommended that the cartoons instead look at broad themes and issues.

Sources in the NCERT said the report suggests cartoons in textbooks must first be “tested” on students and their reactions assessed to ensure that there are no “unintended consequences”. Sensitivities must especially be kept in mind as responses to cartoons may differ depending on a student’s profile, his background, religion, class, caste and habitation, it has said. The committee has also advised against “overuse” of cartoons.

Read the full report in Indian Express : ‘Unfit’ cartoons out, here’s what is ‘fit’

India’s first Newspaper Collector Shashanka Dash

Shashanka Shekhar Dash, who have collected 1,577 newspapers, has already been placed in the Indian Book of Records.

Newspaper collector Shashanka Shekhar Dash says his recent collection is an Afghani paper brought out by a 14-year-old boy.

Browsing through a newspaper while sipping a cup of tea is a morning ritual in almost every household. But not too many would think of collecting newspapers found across the world. Shashanka Shekhar Dash, who claims to have collected 1,577 newspapers, has already been placed in the Indian Book of Records. This 33-year-old from Arangabad village in Odisha, is now aiming to set up a paper museum soon.

Ask him how he developed this habit and Dash says, “I started collecting newspapers in 2001 when I was associated with a media in Rourkela. Right now, I have 1,577 newspapers from 37 countries in 33 languages. I have 150 newspapers from abroad, 391 single day Indian dailies and one handwritten newspaper called Din Dalit that is published from Dumka in Jharkhand. I also have 13 newspapers with Orissa in the title, 12 newspapers with Odisha in the masthead and 14 newspapers with the name Utkala.”

Though Dash has never been abroad, he has still managed to collect publications from abroad. “Sometimes my friends have got the papers for me. On other cases, I’ve written directly to the newspaper offices. Most of them have obliged. It was most difficult to source a newspaper called Voice of the Children that is published from Afghanistan by 14-year-boy Hamid,” he says.

Isn’t preservation a problem? “I keep all the newspapers in separate polythene bags. I am also a keen collector of souvenirs, books and magazines. My dream is to set up a newspaper library and museum in my village. This, I’m sure, will be of great help to the researchers and scholars,” he signs off.

Declaration of Internet Freedom!

The recent past has seen a spate of internet legislation across several different countries – sometimes attempted and foiled, sometimes successful – which have raised a number of issues which have unfortunately been discussed very minimally. I believe the SOPA and PIPA bills received the largest amount of publicitywhen several large websites and internet activists vigourously protested against it. More locally, the multiple website blocking Ashok Kumar (John Doe) orders garnered much attention as well, before it was clarified that whole websites were not to be blocked under it. Amlan also wrote a post ‘directed’ at Mr Sibal highlighting some important internet issues. Click here to see other posts we have written on this area. It seems as though, regardless of how much protests most of these bills receive, at the most, they disappear for some time only to come back in another form shortly after. This seems to have pushed a large group of net advocates, entrepreneurs, academics and others, led by Josh Levy of Free Press, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and others including Yochai Benkler, professor at Yale Law School to come together and draw up a Declaration for a Free and Open Internet.
The principles themselves are quite simple and straightforward.
  1.  Expression: Don’t censor the Internet
  2. Access: Promote Universal access to fast and affordable networks
  3. Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
  4. Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
  5. Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
Given the lack of understanding of digital issues, coupled with greed for power and control amongst policy makers, I hope that this declaration catches on and reaches more concrete positions of authority.
Individuals interested in signing this declaration can do so here. At the time I signed it, there were already 17,000 + signatures and it hasn’t even been one day since it was released. Here’s to hoping that this gains enough momentum to reach some kind of tipping point.
The Verge as put together a good write up of the movement here.

(courtesy: Swaraj Paul Barooah)